2008 > Men's Health > Q & A: Erectile Dysfunction

Q & A: Erectile Dysfunction

Q: What are the most common myths and misconceptions about ED?

A: One common misconception is that emotional and psychological problems are the main causes. In truth, it’s just the opposite; research has shown that physical causes account for over 80% of ED cases.

Another popular myth is that ED is an unavoidable part of the aging process. Yes, a man’s hormone levels diminish with age, and he may need more stimulation to achieve a healthy erection. But age alone does not cause ED.

Q: What are the most common causes of ED? What are the key risk factors?

A: Difficulty achieving an erection can be caused by any number of factors, either physical, psychological, or a combination of the two. A number of medical conditions are known to cause ED, including some arteriosclerosis, heart and vascular diseases, diabetes, prostate conditions including enlargement and cancer, diseases affecting the nerves and brain (e.g. multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease), and vascular conditions that affect blood vessels and circulation.

Unhealthy living excessive stress, obesity and poor nutrition, lack of exercise, tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption and drug use, among others can lead to ED. It’s also a potential side effect resulting from a number of prescription medications, medical procedures and surgeries.

Age also plays a role; studies show ED affects about one out of 20 men aged 40, but about one out of four men aged 65.

ED can also be a symptom of a potential undiagnosed medical condition; which is one of many reasons why it is important for men to talk to their doctor about ED.

Q: What treatment options are most effective?

A: There has been tremendous progress in the number and effectiveness of treatments for ED. The best treatments include medications (taken orally), penile implants, and penile pumps. Doctors often recommend lifestyle modifications such as exercise, smoking cessation, and stress reduction, all of which help improve erectile function and overall health.

Q: What advice should be given to men who may be suffering from ED but are reluctant to seek help?

A: Men should know that it’s normal to feel anxious about talking to your doctor about ED. Men have always been less likely than women to make regular doctor visits, and there’s a stigma in almost every society that men should be able to handle their problems by themselves, and that feeling vulnerable or seeking help is a sign of weakness.

Doctors have been successfully treating men with ED for many years. With even more effective treatment options available now, whatever anxiety men may feel about seeking help always pales in comparison to the anxiety and potentially serious medical problems that can result from not seeking help.

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