According to the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, about 40% of men are affected by erectile dysfunction at age 40, going up to 70% by age 70. And, almost all men, at some point in their lives, will experience ED. Based on this, a common question for men is “How do I know if I have erectile dysfunction?”
Simply, ED is when a man cannot get an erection suitable for sexual intercourse because the erection is not firm enough, does not last long enough, or does not happen at all. Here we look at everything you need to know about erectile dysfunction, including the signs, causes, and proactive steps you can take if you think you have it.
Is it ED?
Keep in mind that a few instances of failure to get or maintain an erection don't always mean you have ED. There are many factors that can contribute to these problems and you'll need to take some things into consideration before jumping to conclusions.
So, how do I know if I have erectile dysfunction? Generally, erectile dysfunction occurring less than 20% of the time rarely requires medical treatment, but failure to achieve an erection more than 50% of the time often indicates a problem.
One of the biggest indicators of ED is age. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases ED impacts only 4% of men in their 50's. However, that percentage increases to 17% of men in their 60's and over 50% of men 75 and up.
Causes of ED.
There are a number of reasons ED can happen, ranging from physical to psychological, but when it starts becoming a common occurrence it can spell trouble for your relationships and you.
Many diseases can cause erectile dysfunction, including high cholesterol, neurological disorders and kidney disease.
Many times, a man's lifestyle can affect his ability to get an erection. Things like stress levels, weight, physical activity, diet, alcohol consumption, tobacco use and illicit drug use can all result in erection problems. If you feel that one or more of these things could be affecting your sex life, try your best to remedy the situation.
Beyond that, there are a number of medical factors that could contribute to issues getting or maintaining an erection. Some cancer treatments, like those for prostate cancer, can impact your ability to get an erection. Certain medications can have an impact on blood pressure, in turn affecting your erections. There are also some medical conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes that can impact circulation in all parts of your body.
Regardless of what the cause is, there are always treatment options for erectile dysfunction.
Consult a doctor.
First things first, if you believe you have ED, consult your doctor. He or she can determine whether the issue is physical or the result of psychological issues, such as stress, depression, or fear of failure to perform. Seeing a doctor is also important because many of the risk factors for ED are also risk factors for other health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. These risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, being overweight, smoking, and not exercising.
Your doctor can help you determine the best way to treat erectile dysfunction. Often, by treating the underlying cause, the erectile dysfunction will go away on its own.
When making the appointment with your doctor, be sure to ask if there is anything you need to do ahead of time to prepare. They may want to run some blood tests, for example, which may require fasting.
Before you go, prepare a list of any medications you are currently taking. Many prescription medicines have erectile dysfunction as a possible side effect. Even if this is not the case, other conditions can make ED medications ineffective or dangerous to take. Nitrate medications to treat heart problems, for example, can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure when combined with ED medication.
Your doctor can recommend a treatment that is safe to take with your existing medications. They may also recommend a lower dosage or alternate medication if it is determined that the erectile dysfunction is being caused as a side effect of your current medication.
You should also note any personal information that may be relevant, such as if you are suddenly undergoing more stress at work or having feelings of anxiety.
Also, prepare a list of questions for your doctor ahead of time. These questions may include:
- Will the erectile dysfunction be long-term or temporary?
- What are the alternatives to the primary approach being suggested?
- What are the possible side effects of the treatments being suggested?
- Will insurance cover all or part of the cost of the treatments?
- What lifestyle changes could I make to help the treatment process?
Once you know the reason for your ED, you can relax and start focusing on solutions. Make sure to not add stress to the situation by thinking you’re less of a man or that you can never have sex again. Remember, ED is very common and you’re not alone. Having anxiety, drinking heavily, or coping with it by avoiding the situation will only make it worse.
One of the most important things to remember throughout the process is to communicate with your partner. Despite the fact that most men experience erectile dysfunction, it can still cause feelings of stress, anxiety, low self-esteem and guilt. These feelings can lead to men drawing away from their partner and avoiding sexual situations, causing a breakdown in the relationship.
Remember to be open and honest with your partner about what you are experiencing. It may be a good idea to bring your partner with you when you talk to your doctor so that they can be a part of the discussion. Ask them about their opinion on possible treatments and maintain communication throughout the treatment process.
Even with treatment, it may be necessary to redefine intimacy. By exploring ways to incorporate treatment, as well as alternative ways to give your partner pleasure, relationships can see a dramatic improvement.
Remember: Do not shut down or become closed off to your partner. Tell your partner what’s going on, and how you’re addressing it. Your partner may need reassurance that you still find them attractive and even that you still love them. In the meantime, explore other forms of contact such as holding hands or cuddling on the couch. Keep in mind that there are ways to establish intimacy other than having sex.
Finally, talk to your doctor about the many treatment options that are available today. Two of the most common are prescription medications and vacuum therapy devices, which are also known as penis pumps. Take the time to explore all the kinds of treatment options and the pros and cons of each one. Erectile dysfunction is treatable, so rest assured there is a solution for you. Keep in mind you may have to try more than one treatment option to achieve results—this too is common!
If “How do I know if I have erectile dysfunction?” is a question that keeps you awake at night, don’t sweep it under the rug and hope it will go away on its own. There are answers as to why it’s happening, and there are ways to make it stop. To find out everything you need to know about Erectile Dysfunction, browse our free guides and resources.