Sexual dysfunction can take an emotional toll, but did you know that it could also be the sign of heart disease? Dr. Aisha Taylor teaches us the truth about erectile dysfunction and its long term implications for men’s health.
by Aisha Taylor, MD
Fellas, do you have trouble achieving or maintaining an erection? Are you able to get an erection, but it’s just not quite enough?
If so, you may be suffering from a condition, known as Erectile Dysfunction (aka, ED or male impotence).
1) What is ED/male impotence?
ED is a disorder of sexual function where men are unable to develop or keep an erection that is sufficient for satisfactory sexual performance. This condition should seriously be considered when an erection is CONSISTENTLY difficult or IMPOSSIBLE to attain, despite sexual stimulation.
2) Who is affected by ED?
ED can affect all men, at any age; however ED typically becomes noticeable in the late 30s to mid 40s.
3) What causes ED? There are many causes of ED, which can be broken down into 2 main categories: organic and inorganic
Organic ED can be traced back to a medical condition that, in many instances, can be reversed. These include:
- **Cardiovascular disease (In young men ages 20s-30s, ED may be the earliest sign of significant heart or vessel disease which may warrant evaluation/intervention by a heart specialist.)
- Neurological problems (trauma, stroke)
- Hormonal deficiencies (low testosterone, thyroid conditions, etc)
- Lifestyle (smoking, ETOH abuse, obesity)
- Drug side effects (blood pressure medications, anti-depressants, etc)
Inorganic ED can be traced back to a psychological states or conditions, such as stress, anxiety or depression and are equally important. Believe it or not, psychological conditions can mimic organic causes of ED.
4) What are the treatment options?
There are many options for the management of ED, each tailored to the specific cause.
Treatment options include:
- Counseling (Inorganic ED)
- Pills (Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra, a family of drugs that help maintain an erection by keeping the penis engorged with blood)
- Injectable therapies (Trimix, Prostaglandin, etc.,) when pills are unsuccessful
- Suppositories (MUSE) these are medications that are inserted into the penis
- Penile devices (Penile pumps, penile prosthetics)- when all other medical therapy options have been exhausted
5) What should you do if you think you are suffering from ED? SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION FROM A HEALTH PROFESSIONAL ASAP! You may start with your primary care physician who will begin the evaluation to assess for the more dangerous causes (heart and vascular disease) of ED. After this, you may be referred to a Urologist.
Dr. Aisha Taylor is a urologist in training at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Her research interests include chronic pelvic pain, interstitial cystitis and bladder dysfunction in patients with M.S. Her clinical interests include female urology, male reconstructive urology, pelvic floor reconstructive surgery and neurourology.