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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. A medical condition that affects between 15 and 30 million American men, erectile dysfunction can occur at any age but becomes increasingly prevalent with age. There are a variety of potential causes of ED, and in many cases, it is a combination of physical, psychological, and lifestyle factors.
Although it can be a difficult topic to discuss, ED is a very common condition that affects men of all ages. According to the National Institutes of Health, ED affects about 30 million men in the United States. However, only a small percentage of men affected by ED seek treatment.
There are a variety of potential causes of ED. These include physical, psychological, and lifestyle factors. Physical causes of ED include:
- Diseases or injuries that affect the nervous system or the blood vessels, such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and atherosclerosis.
- Hormonal imbalances, such as low levels of testosterone.
- Injuries to the penis, spinal cord, prostate, bladder, or pelvis.
- Certain medications, such as antidepressants, antihistamines, and blood pressure medications.
- Substance abuse, such as the use of alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs.
- Psychological causes of ED include:
- Anxiety, stress, or depression.
- Relationship problems.
- Performance anxiety.
- Lifestyle factors that can contribute to ED include:
- A sedentary lifestyle.
- Excessive alcohol use.
- Illegal drug use.
ED is often a symptom of another medical condition. In some cases, such as with diabetes or high blood pressure, treating the underlying condition can resolve the problem of ED.
There are a variety of treatment options available for ED. These include oral medications, injections, vacuum devices, and surgery.
Medications for ED
The most common oral medications for ED are phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors. These include:
- Sildenafil (Viagra).
- Tadalafil (Cialis).
- Vardenafil (Levitra).
These medications work by relaxing the muscles of the penis and increasing blood flow to the area. They are taken 30 to 60 minutes before sexual activity and can be taken with or without food.
Common side effects of these medications include:
In some cases, these medications can cause priapism, a prolonged erection that can lead to tissue damage and permanent ED.
Injections for ED
Injections for ED are typically done with a needle just under the skin of