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Treating erectile dysfunction: It might save a man’s life

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Erectile function is a common sexual disorder which adversely affects a man’s quality of life, psychological health and sexual relationship. Despite this, only 30% of men with erectile dysfunction discuss their problem with a doctor, and of those who speak with their doctor, only 58% receive treatment. Men may be embarrassed to discuss "below the belt" issues with their doctor and perceive them as personal rather than medical issues.

Historically, erectile dysfunction was regarded as a psychological disorder, and this may contribute to men’s perceptions that it is a personal, not a medical issue. However, there is now evidence that the majority of cases of erectile dysfunction are not just in the mind, but are caused by disorders which affect the blood vessels of the penis.

A disorder of the blood vessels

In addition, doctors now recognise that men who experience erectile dysfunction have a higher risk of other vascular disorders (disorders of the blood vessels, which cause blood flow to be obstructed). These include conditions such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease, which increase the risk of life-threatening events such as heart attack and stroke. Men with erectile dysfunction also have an increased risk for other chronic health conditions, including diabetes and high cholesterol.

Vascular and other chronic health conditions have common causes, which are often related to the individual’s lifestyle. They include factors such as diet, exercise and smoking. Because of this, individuals who are at risk of one vascular disorder (because they have a poor diet, do not get enough exercise, and smoke), are also at risk of developing another. Vascular disorders are often co-morbid, meaning that individuals with one vascular disorder (e.g. high blood pressure), often also experience another (e.g. erectile dysfunction).

Erectile dysfunction increases the risk of chronic health conditions

The blood vessels of the penis are much smaller than those in other parts of the body. As such they are more susceptible to disease and are often the first to become damaged by the effects of poor lifestyle habits. This means that erectile dysfunction often occurs before other vascular conditions, and can be the first symptom of broader health problems. For example, men with erectile dysfunction are almost 1.5 times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than men who can maintain erections. More than 20% of men diagnosed with diabetes mellitus receive their diagnosis after seeking treatment for erectile dysfunction.

Treating erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction is now successfully treated with medications called phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE-5) inhibitors in the majority of cases. More men are seeking treatment for the condition as a result.

This provides doctors with an opportunity to assess men for other chronic health conditions, and means that these conditions may be detected earlier, while they pose less serious threats to the man’s health and are more readily managed. Treatment with medication (including PDE-5 inhibitors for erectile dysfunction) may be part of managing vascular problems; however, improving lifestyle by, for example, exercising, maintaining a Mediterranean-style diet and quitting smoking is also essential.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle now also reduces the risk of vascular disorders (including erectile dysfunction). So improving erectile function by maintaining a healthy lifestyle might do more than improve a man’s sex life – it might also save his life.


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Posted On: 5 March, 2010
Modified On: 16 January, 2014


Created by: myVMC