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Erectile dysfunction – Symptoms, causes and treatments
Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, is a type of sexual dysfunction characterized by the inability to develop or maintain an erection of the penis during sexual activity. ED can have psychological consequences as it can be tied to relationship difficulties and self-image.
A variety of risk factors can contribute to erectile dysfunction, including:
- Medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease
- Tobacco use, which restricts blood flow to veins and arteries, can lead to or worsen erectile dysfunction
- Certain medications, such as antidepressants, antipsychotics and blood pressure medications
- Alcoholism and other forms of substance abuse
- Psychological conditions, such as anxiety or depression
- Relationship problems
Treatment for erectile dysfunction depends on the underlying cause. In some cases, treatments can include:
- Oral medications. These medications, such as sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn) and tadalafil (Cialis, Adcirca), are taken by mouth.
- Drugs injected into the penis. These medications, such as alprostadil (Caverject, Edex, Muse), can be effective if your erectile dysfunction is caused by a blood vessel disorder.
- Penis pumps. These devices are sometimes used to treat erectile dysfunction. A penis pump consists of a plastic tube that fits over the penis and a hand- or battery-operated pump. The pump draws blood into the penis, causing it to become erect. A ring placed at the base of the penis then maintains the erection during intercourse.
- Implants. In cases of erectile dysfunction that are caused by physical injury or nerve damage, implants might be an option. Implants are devices that are surgically placed under the skin of the penis. They allow men with erectile dysfunction to have an erection by injecting a medication into the penis.
- Counseling. If you have erectile dysfunction, talking with your partner about your concerns and fears can be difficult. You also may be concerned about embarrassing yourself or your partner. A therapist can help you sort out these feelings and also teach you how to be more comfortable with your body.
Erectile dysfunction can be a sign of a more serious health condition, such as heart disease or low testosterone. If you have erectile dysfunction, see your doctor to find out what might be causing it and what treatments might be best for you.