With a self-explanatory name like “erectile dysfunction”, you might think it to be an incredibly straightforward and easy to understand issue. Despite erectile dysfunction being a very common condition - a study by the Cleveland Clinic found that 30% of men will experience erectile dysfunction at some point in their lives.
While it is true that older men are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction, erectile dysfunction doesn’t discriminate against age and men of any age can still be affected. In a study done by the New England Research Institute, researchers found that erectile dysfunction prevailed at a rate of 52%. The study also found that by the age of 40, 40% of their participants had experienced some degree of erectile dysfunction.
While this might sound worrying, a study conducted by John Hopkins University found that only 4% of men in their 50s and 17% of men in their 60s were completely unable to achieve an erection. This means that while you might experience erectile dysfunction issues as you age, it is unlikely that you will experience complete erectile dysfunction and that your issues can be treated.
As we mentioned earlier, studies have shown a correlation between the prevalence of erectile dysfunction and the ages at which men experience them. However, aging is not the sole cause of erectile dysfunction and that there are a range of factors that can cause men of any age to experience erectile dysfunction. Here are the most common factors that have been linked to erectile dysfunction:
Studies have shown that psychological factors play a huge role in the development of erectile dysfunction and that psychological conditions like stress, depression and anxiety increases the risk of erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction that is directly linked to psychological issues is also called “psychological impotence”.
Medical conditions that affect blood circulation, blood pressure and hormone balances can increase the risk of erectile dysfunction. Diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes were found to be the most common factors that were linked to erectile dysfunction.
Medical treatments like chemotherapy and radiation can increase your risk of developing erectile dysfunction. Surgical treatments like prostate surgery can also increase the risk of you developing erectile dysfunction.
If you are overweight or obese, you are at risk at developing several chronic health issues which in turn, can increase the risk of you being affected by erectile dysfunction. Obesity can also hinder blood flow which can contribute to the development of erectile dysfunction.
Smoking can unsurprisingly negatively affect your body and your health. Smoking can damage your blood vessels which impedes blood circulation and affects your ability to get and hold an erection. Similarly, overconsumption of alcohol can also negatively affect both your health and sexual health. Too much alcohol in your system can diminish your sex drive, prevent you from getting and maintaining an erection and prevent you from orgasming.
It is important not to shrug off erectile dysfunction as an “older man’s problem” or something that is the result of aging as erectile dysfunction can affect men of all ages and can be brought on by a host of factors; some of which can be prevented by practicing a healthier lifestyle. In a study done by the Harvard School of Public Health, researchers found that there was a correlation between erectile dysfunction and factors like alcohol intake, smoking habits, and physical activity. The study found that men who exercised regularly were 30% less likely to develop erectile dysfunction than men who did not exercise. Men that lived healthier lifestyles and did not experience any chronic disease were less likely to experience erectile dysfunction than men who were overweight, drank, smoked and lived sedentary lives.
While experiencing erectile dysfunction in of itself isn’t life threatening, it could be indicative of a larger underlying health issue that could be concerning if left undiagnosed and untreated.
Of all the potential root causes of erectile dysfunction, heart disease is the most concerning. Heart disease refers to several health conditions that are characterised by cardiovascular problems like arrhythmia, anatomical defect or atherosclerosis. In a study done by the Vienna Medical School, researchers found that atherosclerosis was the most likely factor to cause erectile dysfunction, of all the stated cardiovascular problems.
Atherosclerosis occurs when artery walls are thickened by the accumulation of cholesterol and other fatty substances (also known as, “plaque”), which then narrows the artery’s opening and inhibits both the flow and the amount of blood going through the arteries. Besides preventing you from getting and maintaining an erection, conditions like atherosclerosis that hinders blood pressure and circulation can lead to serious health issues such as stroke, heart attack and even death.
Besides heart disease, another health condition that could potentially cause erectile dysfunction is type 2 diabetes. Diabetes occurs when your body is unable to regulate the blood sugar levels as insulin production is impaired. Eventually, the high blood sugar levels in the body will damage the circulatory, immune and nervous systems.
If you experience chronic erectile dysfunction, it is important that you consult your doctor sooner rather than later. Your doctor will be able to determine the root cause of your erectile dysfunction, and whether it is caused by psychological factors or a bigger underlying health issue.
You might think that the only and best way to treat erectile dysfunction is to take erectile dysfunction drugs like sildenafil (also known by the brand name Viagra) or other similar medication. While it is true that these prescription medications can help you get and maintain an erection with a success rate as high as 70%, it is not the be-all-end- all way to treat erectile dysfunction.
There are instances where erectile dysfunction medication might not work at all for some men, or even might cause side effects like headaches, facial flushing, muscles aches, congestions and back pain.
Besides prescription medication used to treat erectile dysfunction, here is a list of other commonly used treatments:
Your doctor might suggest that you make changes to your eating habits and lifestyle to help treat the underlying health issue that is causing your erectile dysfunction.
If prescription medication is not working for you, there are injections that can be administered directly into the penis and produce an erection that can last up to an hour.
A penile implant is a small tube that is surgically inserted, and can be pumped with air to erect the penis.
Suppository erectile dysfunction drugs are inserted into the tip of the penis where it gets absorbed by the urethral wall, producing an erection that lasts up to an hour.
Vacuum restriction devices are used to draw blood into the penis via pressure, producing an erection that lasts up to 30 minutes when a rubber ring is put around the base of the penis.
Besides considering all the erectile dysfunction treatments available to you, it is also important to consider the root cause of your erectile dysfunction. As mentioned earlier, health conditions like heart disease, diabetes and obesity could be the reason why you are experiencing erectile dysfunction, and by treating those issues first, it might be able to solve your erectile dysfunction without taking ED medication or treatment.
If you are experiencing erectile dysfunction, it is advisable that you consult a doctor. Here at Noah, our doctors are best equipped with the knowledge to help you ascertain the root cause of your erectile dysfunction. They will be able to advise you on the best treatment suited for you, and can also prescribe you the right medication should you need it.
Bacon, Constance G et al. “Sexual function in men older than 50 years of age: results from the health professionals follow-up study.” Annals of internal medicine vol. 139,3 (2003): 161-8. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-139-3-200308050-00005
Erectile dysfunction (ED): Causes, diagnosis & treatment. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2021, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10035-erectile-dysfunction
Feldman, H A et al. “Impotence and its medical and psychosocial correlates: results of the Massachusetts Male Aging Study.” The Journal of urology vol. 151,1 (1994): 54-61. doi:10.1016/s0022-5347(17)34871-1
Ponholzer, A et al. “Is penile atherosclerosis the link between erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular risk? An autopsy study.” International journal of impotence research vol. 24,4 (2012): 137-40. doi:10.1038/ijir.2012.3