Erectile dysfunction for dummies

It’s the problem that nobody wants to talk about, but with most men experiencing impotence at some point in their lives this simple guide is sure to help you, or your man, out.

What is erectile dysfunction?
Also known as ‘impotence’, erectile dysfunction is the inability for a man to get or keep an erection. For a long time it was thought that erectile dysfunction was usually caused by a psychological issue, however, we now that in most cases it is caused by a physical problem.

When should I be worried?
It is perfectly normal to occasionally have trouble getting or maintaining an erection. Occasional erectile dysfunction can be caused by drinking too much alcohol, stress, anxiety or tiredness. It is only if the issue continues that you should go and see a doctor, as they will likely be able to offer you treatment or a cure.

What causes ongoing erectile dysfunction?
Psychological causes are responsible for only one-in-10 cases of erectile dysfunction. Most cases will be caused by a physical illness. If you are still experiencing spontaneous erections overnight or in the morning, it’s likely the problem is stemming from a psychological issue. Your doctor can still offer treatment if this is the case, so making an appointment is a good idea.

Erectile dysfunction which is caused by physical illness will often happen over a period of months or years, and is characterised by a gradual loss of function.

The physical causes of erectile dysfunction are often related to conditions which may restrict blood flow to the penis. These include:

  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Multiple sclerosis

How is erectile dysfunction treated?
There are many ways to treat erectile dysfunction, as there can be many causes. Some of the more simple treatments include changing prescription medications which may be causing the condition, psychotherapy and counselling, oral medication such as viagra, or external penile pump devices to encourage blood flow.

More invasive treatments for persistent erectile dysfunction, many of which are very effective, include injections, penile prosthetic implants, hormone therapy or vascular surgery.

What about over-the-counter treatments?
Many over-the-counter treatments for erectile dysfunction claim to be able to treat or even cure the problem. Many are expensive and have not been adequately tested for either their effectiveness or for possible side effects. It is highly recommended that you take these products with a grain of salt, and consider going to your GP instead.

Where can you get help?
The first place to try is your GP. If, however, this is difficult or not a conversation you wish to have with him or her, consider visiting your community health centre or calling MensLine Australia, the dedicated men’s health telephone service, on 1300 78 99 78.

Have you struggled with erectile dysfunction? The more we talk about these issues the less stressful they will be, so why not share how you dealt with it in the comments below?