​A Guide to Male Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction occurs when men can’t get a penis erection or can’t keep an erection long enough to have satisfactory sex. It used to be called “impotence” but that term is now considered to be out of date by many doctors.

The chances of having problems with erectile dysfunction increases with age, although many younger men also suffer from some form of erectile dysfunction.

Impotence Australia CEO Brett McCann says about 30 per cent of men aged over 18 may be affected by some sort of erectile dysfunction– most commonly premature ejaculation, where they climax too early.

Erectile dysfunction in Australia is common in men over 40, according to two surveys done with older Australian men.

There are many effective treatments for male erectile dysfunction, from

  • Lifestyle changes (losing weight, exercising more)
  • Erectile drugs
  • Herbal ED supplements

Causes of Male Erectile Dysfunction

Years ago people believed male erectile dysfunction was caused by psychological factors but it is now accepted that the majority of male erectile dysfunction – between 75 and 90 per cent is caused by physical reasons or a mix of physical and psychological causes. 

Severe emotional stress for example, may be considered a psychological cause, but traumatic experiences like divorce or job loss can impact physical health by sharply lowering testosterone levels, aging the body by ten years in a few months in severe cases.

Many diseases and medical conditions can lead to male erectile dysfunction.
The most common causes of male erectile dysfunction are:

Blood Vessel Problems

Doctors say whatever affects your heart and circulation affects your erections, because penis erection is so dependent on good blood flow, and the most common cause of erectile dysfunction is poor blood flow, usually as a result of blocked blood vessels.

Life style factors and conditions that cause narrowing of blood vessels include

  • Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Diabetes
  • Long-term smoking

Nerve Problems

During a normal erection, signals from the brain and spinal cord are sent through nerves to the blood vessels in the pelvis and the genitals, causing the blood vessels to dilate and the penile cavities to fill with blood, creating an erection.

Erectile dysfunction results when these signals do not get through. 

The most common causes of nerve damage are:

  • Stroke
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Side effects of surgery – particularly prostate or urinary surgery
  • Diabetes
  • Long-term heavy alcohol use

Hormone Problems

Men who don't make enough testosterone (male hormone) may have problems achieving an erection.
Although the idea that men may also experience a “male menopause” or andropause is still controversial amongst some doctors, testosterone levels naturally decline as men age, and some men are more affected by this than others.

Andrology Australia suggests ten per cent of men aged over 60 may be affected by low testosterone – and some suggest up to ten per cent of erectile dysfunction at any age may be caused by low testosterone levels.

Low testosterone levels can also affect sex drive, and without sexual desire erection drugs like Viagra will not work.  

Side Effects of Medications

More than 200 prescribed or over the counter medications for a whole range of very common minor complaints can have side effects like:

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Low libido
  • Inability to reach orgasm

These include:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) for joint and muscle pain and arthritis
  • Medications for high blood pressure, (beta blockers)
  • Antidepressants that interfere with the production of the neurochemical serotonin
  • Heart burn relief
  • Hay fever remedies

Emotional Health Problems

Depression, anxiety or stress can all lead to low sex drive and erectile dysfunction.  Traumatic situations like divorce or job loss can age testosterone levels at faster than normal rates, resulting in years of equivalent loss over just a few months.

Male Erectile Dysfunction Treatments

Australian research by Dr Gary Wittert has shown making life style changes like losing weight and exercising more can rapidly reverse erectile dysfunction, with good results after only eight weeks.

And a Sydney study on 8000 Aussie men aged 16 to 59 who smoked found smoking less than a pack a day led to a 24 per cent increase in erectile dysfunction – and the more cigarettes smoked, the more the risk of erection problems increased.  Those who smoked more than 20 a day increased their risk of erectile dysfunction by 39 per cent.

This research just underlines many other international studies which show what you eat, how much you weigh and the level of exercise you undertake has a direct impact on men’s sexual health.

Other erectile dysfunction treatments are erection drugs, and herbal supplements like Herbal Ignite.

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