Erections are created when a man is aroused physically or mentally. His nervous system sends messages to the penis that cause blood to rush to the area and fill the erectile chambers within the shaft of the penis. Back flow valves in the penis veins then close, trapping the blood in the penis to firmly hold an erection in place.
With erectile dysfunction (ED), arteries are not able to get enough blood to the penis, or the back flow valves in the penis veins allow blood to leak out of the penis. As a result, the penis is not able to attain or sustain an erection.
Sometimes an erection can be attained, but the quality of the erection is not suitable enough for intercourse. Both situations are considered ED.
Causes of ED
Erectile dysfunction is incredibly common, affecting 40% of men over age 40, and it can be caused by several factors:
- Medications such as beta-blockers or other blood pressure treatments. These lower the blood pressure throughout the body, including in the penis.
- Medical conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure
- Surgical procedures involving the pelvic area or prostate that weaken nerves and muscles
- Psychological reasons, including anxiety, depression, tension, guilt, stress, and fear of failure to perform sexually. Men who are already treating ED may continue to have anxiety wondering whether their treatment will “work” when they are in the moment.
Treatment for ED
ED is a real health issue that is diagnosable and treatable, and there are many solutions available.
- Counseling can often fix ED that is rooted in psychological causes.
- Oral medications can be taken to treat ED caused by medical conditions; however, they are often not as effective as the popular commercials may lead people to believe. Up to 30% of men do not have success with this option. Others experience severe side effects, and others are not able to attain a firm enough erection no matter the dosage.
- Injection therapy is another prescribed treatment, in which the patient uses a needle to inject medication directly into his penis to stimulate blood flow and keep the blood in the penis.
- More aggressive forms of treatment such as surgical implants can treat ED, but they are being prescribed less and less because there are other as effective and less evasive treatments available.
- Vacuum therapy systems or medical vacuum pumps, often called “Penis Pumps,” are a solution that is becoming increasingly popular. Vacuum therapy uses the laws of physics to mimic the natural process a man’s body goes through when it creates an erection. These systems are a cost-effective, natural, and spontaneous answer to ED that requires no prescription.
If you believe you may be experiencing ED, your doctor can provide a proper diagnosis and help you determine the treatment option that will work best for you.
To learn more about ED browse our FAQs and tips on how to talk about ED. Also download our free eBook on Tackling Erectile Dysfunction.