A comprehensive list of today's common ailments and health conditions.

Erectile Dysfunction

By Angela Young

Erectile dysfunction is characterized by the inability to develop and/or maintain a penile erection during sexual intercourse. Most often brought on by sexual arousal, an erection occurs when blood enters and is retained in the sponge-like bodies in the penis. When erectile dysfunction occurs, a man can experience anything from continued difficulty to complete inability to achieve an erection despite being aroused. It is estimated that 1 in 10 men have recurring erectile problems at some point in their lives.

Though erectile dysfunction can stem from a number of causes, the most important causes are cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hormonal insufficiences, side effects to medication and neurological problems. Additionally, erectile dysfunction can be linked to pschological problems. There are many ways to treat erectile dysfunction, including medication, therapy, a penile prosthesis, a penis pump and vascular reconstructive surgery.

Erectile Dysfunction Symptoms

The symptoms of erectile dysfunction include the inability to develop or maintain an erection during normal sexual activity. This can also include not being able to achieve a rigid erection, as well as losing an erection either before penetration or during sexual activity.

Erectile dysfunction sufferers that have an underlying psychological cause oftentimes are able to maintain an erection while asleep when the issues of the mind would be less present, while those suffering from a clinical cause would not.

Erectile Dysfunction Causes

There are numerous causes of erectile dysfunction. Many common medications like antidepressants, as well as nicotine and illicit drugs like cocaine and heroin can inhibit the ability for a man to acheive an erection. Neurogenic disorders like Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries, hormonal disorders like extremely low or high levels testosterone and arterial disorders like hypertension and peripheral vascular disease are all known causes of erectile dysfunction.

Psychological causes such as stress, depression or schizophrenia can also lead to erectile dysfunction. Any surgery that can damage the nerves and blood vessels necessary for an erection such as prostate, bladder, colon or rectum surgeries can also cause damage to the penis and the ability to maintain an erection.

Aging, as well as lifesyle can also play a role in erectile dysfunction. Men who are obese, smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol and take drugs are also more likely to suffer from problems associated with erectile dysfunction.

Erectile Dysfunction Diagnosis

At the present time, there are no exacting tests to diagnose erectile dysfunction. However, patients will generally undergo some basic blood tests to rule out underlying diseases like diabetes, hypogonadism and prolactinoma.

A duplex ultrasound can be used to evaluate blood flow, signs of atherosclerosis, venous leaks and scarring of erectile tissue. A hormone-like stimulator, prostaglandin is injected into the penis and creates an erection to use this method. The vascular dialation and penile blood pressure is examined under an ultrasound and then compared to the flaccid measurements.

There are many other tests that can be used to rule out additional causes of erectile dysfunction. These include a nocturnal penile tumescence, penile biothesiometry, dynamic infusion cavernosometry and many more depending on the individual patient's symptoms and history.

Erectile Dysfunction Treatment

Treatment for erectile dysfunction is linked very strongly to the cause of the problem, as there are many different solutions that can effectively treat it. With the exclusion of testosterone supplementation, treatments for erectile dysfunction are temporary, allowing an erection to be obtained and maintained for intercourse, but not treating or improving the underlying condition.

There are oral medications, injections and penile suppositories that all can treat erectile dysfunction. Also, aerobic exercise has been known to provide a natural and inexpensive treatment for erectile dysfunction. A penis pump with a compression ring can also be used to achieve and maintain an erection, and a more permanent and expensive solution is a penile implant which can be fitted surgically.

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