What is erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, refers to the regular difficulty in achieving or maintaining a satisfactory erection for sexual intercourse. While occasional difficulties can occur in individuals with penises, ED is diagnosed when it happens more frequently.
ED is more common than people may realize, with approximately 18% of men over the age of 20 reporting some degree of ED. Among men aged 20 to 39, the prevalence is around 5%, but it increases with age. Reports of ED rise to 44% among those aged 60 to 69 and 70% in individuals over the age of 70.
Fortunately, there are treatments available for ED that are generally safe and effective in about 70% of cases. However, it’s important to note that ED treatments do not address issues such as low libido (lack of interest in sex), premature ejaculation (ejaculating too soon after intercourse begins), or anejaculation (inability to ejaculate despite having an erection).
It’s worth mentioning that there can be other types of sexual problems that individuals may experience alongside ED.
What causes erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction (ED) can occur in individuals of any age, but the likelihood of experiencing it increases with age. Several factors contribute to an increased risk of ED, including;
- Heavy alcohol usage
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Psychological factors such as depression, anxiety, or high stress levels.
ED can also be caused by hormonal disorders, nerve disorders, pelvic trauma or surgery, as well as certain medications used to treat conditions like high blood pressure, depression, and anxiety.
What are the symptoms of erectile dysfunction?
ED symptoms can vary in severity and are not limited to a binary experience. They exist on a spectrum, ranging from mild to complete. Common manifestations of ED include:
- Regular difficulty in achieving or maintaining an erection when attempting sexual activity
- Regular difficulty in achieving an erection that is firm and sustained enough for satisfying sexual intercourse
- Complete inability to attain an erection under any circumstances
- In some cases, individuals may also experience a decrease in libido or diminished interest in sexual activity.
How is erectile dysfunction diagnosed?
The most effective treatments for ED typically require a diagnosis and prescription. However, for many men, discussing ED with a healthcare provider can be uncomfortable or embarrassing. It is important to know that healthcare providers are accustomed to dealing with ED and are there to help. If you prefer not to have a face-to-face visit, there are online services available that can provide a diagnosis and prescribe appropriate treatment.
If you have been experiencing symptoms of ED for more than six months and are unsure whether you may have the condition, you can start by taking an online test. This test is commonly used by healthcare providers to assess the severity of ED and monitor its improvement with treatment.
In most cases, ED is not a serious medical condition beyond its impact on personal lives and relationships. However, in approximately 20% of cases, ED can be an indicator of an underlying health issue, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or depression. When consulting a healthcare provider about ED, they will ask questions and conduct simple tests to determine if there are any undiagnosed health conditions contributing to your symptoms. Treating these underlying conditions may also improve ED symptoms without the need for medication, offering a potential dual benefit. Other factors causing ED, such as being overweight, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, certain medications, stress, relationship difficulties, and hormonal disorders, may also be reversible.
If ED is affecting you, do not let any discomfort or awkwardness prevent you from seeking help. Addressing the issue can have a positive impact not only on your sex life but also on your overall well-being.
What medication can be used for erectile dysfunction?
The most commonly used medications for ED are sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), vardenafil (Staxyn), and avanafil (Stendra). These medications belong to a class of drugs called PDE₅ inhibitors and are known to be safe and effective. There is minimal difference in their effectiveness.
The American College of Physicians recommends that the choice of medication depends on factors such as cost, lifestyle, and relationship status. Viagra is the most affordable option and has the longest safety record.
Viagra (sildenafil) is inexpensive and suitable for occasional use, but it should be taken 1 to 2 hours after a meal. It can start working in as little as 11 minutes, reaching its maximum effect after 1 hour, and typically lasts for 3 to 5 hours.
Staxyn (vardenafil) is an expensive ED medication that offers few additional benefits compared to Viagra. It can start working in as fast as 14 minutes, takes 45 minutes to reach its maximum effect, and can last for 4 to 5 hours. It should not be taken with a meal but may be an option if sildenafil is ineffective.
Cialis (tadalafil) is a more costly ED medication that has longer-lasting effects than other ED medications. It can be taken with a meal and has the advantage of being available as a daily dose for individuals who require frequent use.
Stendra (avanafil) is the newest ED medication and works similarly to other ED medications. It has the fastest onset of action, with effects noticeable in 15 minutes or less. It is not affected by food, allowing for more flexibility in timing. Currently, Stendra is only available as a brand medication, and generic versions are not yet available.
Possible side effects of these PDE₅ inhibitors are similar and may include headache, flushing, nasal congestion, indigestion, abnormal vision, and muscle pain.
ED, also known as impotence, is the recurring difficulty in achieving or maintaining an erection suitable for sexual intercourse.
Around 18% of men over 20 experience some degree of ED. The likelihood increases with age, rising to 70% in those over 70 years old.
Yes, other issues include low libido, premature ejaculation, and anejaculation.
Causes include smoking, heavy alcohol use, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, psychological factors, hormonal or nerve disorders, certain medications, and pelvic surgery or trauma.
Though it can be uncomfortable for many to discuss ED with healthcare providers, they are trained to handle such conditions. An online test can help assess ED’s severity. Additionally, healthcare providers may run tests to uncover potential underlying health conditions contributing to ED.
In about 20% of cases, ED can signal underlying health problems like heart disease, diabetes, or depression.
Common ED medications include sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), vardenafil (Staxyn), and avanafil (Stendra).
While all are PDE₅ inhibitors, they differ in cost, onset time, duration of effect, and dietary considerations. For example, Viagra is affordable and suitable for occasional use, while Cialis offers longer-lasting effects and is available as a daily dose.
Possible side effects may encompass headache, flushing, nasal congestion, indigestion, abnormal vision, and muscle pain.
Viagra can take effect in 11 minutes, Staxyn in 14 minutes, while Stendra has the fastest onset at 15 minutes or less.
Yes, for instance, Viagra should be taken 1 to 2 hours post-meal, while Stendra and Cialis are unaffected by food.
Yes, psychological factors such as stress, anxiety, depression, and relationship issues can contribute to ED.
While age does increase the risk of ED, many other factors, both medical and psychological, can contribute.
Yes, addressing ED can positively influence one’s sexual health and overall well-being. It’s essential not to let discomfort or embarrassment hinder seeking assistance.