Erectile dysfunction (a.k.a. ED or impotence) remains a subject many men understandably struggle to talk about.
Having a problem ‘downstairs’ can be very distressing, and for most men, it often comes with the harsh reality they’re no longer 17 years old. It can affect your self-esteem, relationships and mood, as well as depriving you of the enormous fitness benefits of regular sex.
Erectile dysfunction means different things to different people. Many men describe it as the inability to get an erection. However, it’s more commonly seen as the inability to maintain an erection for any reasonable length of time.
If you’re suffering from erectile dysfunction, trust me when I say you’re not alone. It’s estimated to affect more than one in five Australian men over the age of 40.
What Are the Causes?
The internet will no doubt steer people towards ridiculous theories as to the causes of erection problems – we’ve all seen the discreet online chemists ads or magic cures imported from who-knows-where.
But it’s important to get the right facts once and for all.
There are lots of recognised causes of erectile dysfunction, with most falling into either a physical or psychological category.
Physical causes include:
- Atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries that supply the penis with blood)
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Hormonal imbalances
Psychological causes include performance anxiety, relationship problems, depression and stress.
Other important factors involve cigarette smoking, alcohol, drugs, medication side-effects, sleep and obesity.
In almost all cases erectile dysfunction is caused by a combination of the above factors.
How is ED Diagnosed?
Figuring out why you’re experiencing erection issues is essential. It may very well be your body’s way of warning you something else is wrong.
Diagnosing erectile dysfunction can be simple once we’ve identified the key problems, but it’s important to highlight that it’s not all about a quick fix. Diagnosis may involve a blood test and a chat about how to best move forward.
An ultrasound scan can help in some cases. This is a non-painful, non-invasive way of getting a load of information about what might be going on down below.
What About Treatment?
Once we’ve figured out the factors involved, we can discuss a combination of treatments. These range from:
- Medications to increase blood flow to the penis, such as Viagra or Cialis.
- Counselling for those who may benefit.
- Talking about how much smoking, alcohol and diet could be contributing factors.
- Seeing a urologist if the cause can only be fixed with surgery.
Men often believe this discussion is going to be hugely embarrassing. Yet without fail patients tell me how relieved they are to be finally talking about it. Trust me when I say I have far more uncomfortable consultations every day.
GPs are best placed to have open and honest conversations about what’s going on and how it’s affecting you. Our job is to listen and together determine the right course of action to get you back to where you want to be.
We’re here to help in any way we can.