Men who have ED are unable to have or maintain a penile erection that’s firm enough for sexual intercourse and satisfaction.
It can cause low self-esteem, performance anxiety, depression and stress. ED may affect the quality of a marriage or intimate relationship. The good news is there are many safe and effective treatments.
Studies show that about one half of American men over age 40 have some degree of ED. While ED becomes more common as men age, growing old is not the cause of the problem. Though sexual function may decrease with age, many men enjoy sexual activity well into their senior years.
ED can be an early warning sign of a more serious illness, such as heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes mellitus.
Diagnosing and treating the condition that causes ED can improve your overall well being, as well as help restore your sexual health.
ED is diagnosed by an andrologist/urologist or other medical professional through a brief physical examination. A careful medical, social, psychological and sexual history is also taken.
Men with ED may have tests to check for:
- Low levels of the hormone testosterone
- Elevated levels of sugar in your blood, which are signs of diabetes
- Elevated levels of blood cholesterol and other lipids (fatty substances)
Changing certain habits, such as stopping medications or alcohol use may improve or eliminate ED.
Psychological problems, such as relationship conflicts, depression or performance anxiety, can also be treated.
The oral medications sildenafil (Viagra) and tadalafil are considered safe and effective for treating ED for many men. They work to relax muscle cells in the penis for better blood flow and to produce a rigid erection. These medicines work in about 7 out of every 10 men with ED. They can be effective regardless of age or race. However, they only work if a man is sexually stimulated.
Drink alcohol only in moderation and do not smoke. This may improve how you respond to drug treatment for ED.
As with any drug, some men may experience side effects when taking these medications. The most common are headaches, flushing (redness) of the face, runny or stuffy nose, dizziness and muscle aches. Those side effects are usually mild, but taking these drugs with alcohol may make them worse. The side effects usually disappear in a few minutes to a few hours.
Even men who respond to these oral medications should pay attention to lifestyle factors that can affect ED. Get regular physical activity, and try to maintain normal weight and cholesterol levels.
Other safe and effective options include vacuum erection devices, self-injection therapy and penile implants. These other methods are especially useful for men who cannot take tablets or do not have a satisfactory response to the medication.
Men who use alternative medicines or dietary supplements for ED or for other health reasons should know that “natural” does not always mean safer. Remember that some natural ingredients can be dangerous, even deadly.