Erectile Dysfunction: The Causes and Solutions

Erectile dysfunction is defined as the inability to attain an erection or to sustain one long enough for sexual intercourse. As you might imagine, this can seriously affect a sufferer’s self-esteem and interfere with his intimate relationships.

Occasional erectile dysfunction is not something to worry about. If a man is tired from working long hours, has just had a bout of the flu, or been to hospital for surgery, for instance, he may experience some temporary dysfunction while his body recovers. It could also happen when he’s just had too much of a good time and a few too many beers!

Isn’t it really just psychological?

It’s often thought that erectile dysfunction is mostly a psychological condition, perhaps caused by factors such as anxiety, overwork, or emotional distress. While these can certainly be contributing factors in some cases, as a rule, the more serious cases of erectile dysfunction have a physical cause.

Causes include:   

  • Illnesses affecting the blood vessels – such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
  • Other illnesses – for example multiple sclerosis, or Peyronie’s disease (plaques in the erectile tissue).
  • Lifestyle activities – such as smoking, drug abuse or excess alcohol. It’s well known for instance that smoking can negatively affect the health of the blood vessels.
  • Penile trauma –from injuries sustained, or from prostate cancer surgery.
  • Psychological factors – while this is less common than physical causes, stress or depression can be a contributing factor.
  • Other factors – such as side effects from prescription medication, or hormone imbalances such as low testosterone (this can be determined from a blood test).

What can be done about it?

The best treatment is to identify the underlying cause and remedy that. For instance, if a sufferer is a heavy smoker, quitting smoking can help improve his overall health, and relieve or even alleviate the condition.
However, specific treatments may still be called for – especially if the damage is already done. These include:

Non-surgical options:

  • Oral medications – such as Viagra and Cialis, which are designed to improve flow in the blood vessels. Side effects may include headaches, stomach pain, nausea and flushing.
  • Injections – self-injections of medication directly into the penis, done under the supervision of the doctor or urologist. Side effects may include a temporary dull ache, penile scarring, or prolonged erection (which may indicate the dose needs adjusting).
  • Vacuum pump – hand-held or battery-operated device used to increase blood flow to the penis. Side effects – some report a cold and / or numb sensation in the penis, and loss of spontaneity.
  • Linear shockwave therapy – designed to reverse penile vascular dysfunction. It involves administering low-intensity shockwaves. No adverse side effects have been reported.
  • Hormone treatment – for low testosterone for instance, although this treatment is quite rare.
  • Lifestyle changes – as mentioned previously, lifestyle factors can be a major contributor. Even if treatments are used, taking steps to improve overall health may help improve sexual function and also mean that treatments work better or may eventually not be required at all.

Surgical treatments:

Penile prosthetics or implants may enable the patient to produce an erection ‘on demand’. The implants are made up of cylinders that are inserted into the penis, and a pump. They work by filling up the cylinders with fluid when the pump is manipulated, thus producing an erection. Prosthetics generally have high satisfaction and success rates.

As for all surgery, this treatment carries some risk. Also, once implants are used, achieving erections naturally may no longer be possible.
Contact us if you would like to know more about erectile dysfunction treatment in Sydney.