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Erectile dysfunction (ED) can deal a harsh blow to a man’s ego. That’s because the ability to perform in the bedroom is so important. You may suspect you have ED because of a drop in performance, but you’re not really sure. You probably even went online to find out how common the condition is and whether it affects men’s sexual performance.
Before you panic, there are common signs and symptoms that suggest ED as explained below. Ultimately, getting an evaluation from your doctor or urologist can confirm or rule the condition. Different treatment options are also available to improve erection and sexual performance.
How Does an Erection Happen?
An erection involves hormones, nerves, blood vessels, and muscles. It happens when you feel an urge for sex and the brain starts sending nerve signals to your penis.
At the same time, blood flow increases to your penis causing it to increase in size and firmness. The veins eventually close to keep blood from flowing out. These veins open back up allowing the blood to flow back into your body after an orgasm or when you’re no longer aroused.
What Is Erectile Dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence, is when a man has trouble getting or maintaining an erection long enough to have sexual intercourse or have an orgasm. The penis usually appears soft and limp and may feel cold to the touch when this happens.
ED affects 30 million men in the US and 152 million men worldwide, although the numbers may not console you. That’s because being unable to get or keep an erection impacts relationships and male self-esteem. Impotence can also lead to depression. So there is a legitimate reason to get worried.
But keep in mind that while men’s sexual performance means everything to them, almost all men experience trouble with erection at some point in their life. Some men experience it when they are stressed, anxious, or nervous. This doesn’t mean you are experiencing impotence unless the problem is long-term.
Signs and Symptoms of Erectile Dysfunction
You may be dealing with impotence if the following signs or symptoms persist for a long time:
- Inability to get an erection
- Inability to maintain an erection
- Reduced desire for sex (low libido)
Erectile dysfunction can occur short-term or long-term. You may be able to get an erection sometimes, but not every time you’re ready to have sex. Or, you may get an erection, but it does not last long enough to have sex or satisfy your partner. Some men are unable to get an erection at any time.
Causes and Risk Factors
Men’s sexual performance depends heavily on a sufficient amount of blood flow to the penis to help them sustain their erection. When this isn’t happening, it may be due to one or more of the following physical or psychological causes:
- Limited blood flow to the penis
- Nerve injury
- Emotional problems such as stress or anxiety
- Relationship conflicts
- Low self-confidence
- Fear of intimacy
- An underlying health condition such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or atherosclerosis (hardening or blocked arteries)
- Other sexual disorders such as premature ejaculation and delayed ejaculation
Factors such as being over age 50, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, smoking, doing drugs, excessive alcohol drinking, and obesity can increase the chance of erectile dysfunction. Other common factors include prostate problems, an increase in the hormone prolactin, and taking certain medications such as medicine for blood pressure, anxiety, or depression.
When to See a Doctor ?
It’s not likely to be serious if you occasionally have trouble with erection. You should consider seeing your general provider if you’re experiencing erectile problems frequently, right before or during sex, over a long period (chronic impotence), or the issue gets worse with time.
Also talk to your doctor if you are not getting morning erections, are unable to masturbate, have anxiety about sex, or there is an underlying condition such as premature, delayed ejaculation, or high blood pressure.
Erectile Dysfunction Diagnosis and Treatment
Your doctor or urologist will do a physical exam, look at your medical history, assess your symptoms and do a blood test and other lab tests to make a diagnosis. Your healthcare professional may then recommend treatment for impotence as well as any underlying condition known for interfering with men’s sexual performance. Treatment can include:
- Medication, e.g, sexual enhancement drugs such as sildenafil (Viagra)
- Assistive devices (e.g., penis pumps)
- Testosterone therapy
- Intraurethral (IU) Therapy
- Self-injection therapy
Surgical treatment, such as a penile implant, may be recommended in severe cases or where other treatments failed. Your doctor may also recommend supplements to boost testosterone, diet changes, and changing lifestyle habits. Treating underlying mental health conditions with cognitive-behavioral therapy has been shown to improve psychological symptoms related to ED and men’s sexual performance.
Outlook and Takeaway
The older you get, the greater your risk of developing erectile dysfunction. Underlying health conditions further increase the risk. However, men’s sexual performance means a lot for their sex life, sense of self-worth, and confidence. That’s why when impotence happens, it causes low self-esteem, an unsatisfactory sex life, relationship conflicts, mental health problems, and a reduced quality of life.
Some men delay talking to their doctor because they feel embarrassed. This is normal in the circumstances. While having trouble performing in the bedroom can affect your ego, there are effective treatments available. Your doctor will help decide on the best treatment plan for you. Hopefully, treatment will help you get your love life back on track and may even boost your self-confidence.