What is Erectile Dysfunction?

November 2, 2022



Erectile dysfunction (or impotence), is the inability to get and keep an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse.

If you experience occasional Erectile Dysfunction (or ED), you are not alone. It is the most common sexual problem that men tell their doctors, and it affects as many as 30 million men. Men can go through this when stressed, and there is no need to be concerned.

When does this become a problem?

You should seek help when ED is frequent and persists for a long time (3 or more months). Frequent ED could point to other health issues, like heart disease. It could also be a sign of emotional and relationship issues.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms can include:

1. During sexual activity:

  • Trouble getting an erection
  • Trouble maintaining an erection

2. Reduced sexual desire

Seeking help

If you have the above symptoms, or have frequent ED, you should see a doctor, even if you feel embarrassed about it. There are many treatment options available that will help treat ED.

You should also visit your doctor if you:

3. Have diabetes, heart disease or other known health conditions that might be linked to ED.

4. Have other symptoms together with erectile dysfunction

5. Have other sexual conditions like premature or delayed ejaculation

6. Have any concerns about your erections

Erectile can also be a symptom that follows other health conditions.

Risk Factors

Risk factors (things that could increase your chances to get ED) include:

  • Diabetes (Type 2 diabetes)
  • Vascular (heart) disease, or vascular surgery
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Being a smoker
  • Being overweight
  • Going through some medical treatments
    • Examples are: prostate surgery or radiation treatment for cancer
  • Injuries, especially on nerves or arteries that control erections in the prostate area
  • Specific medications
    • Examples are: antidepressants, antihistamines and medications to treat high blood pressure, pain or prostate conditions
  • Psychological conditions, such as stress, anxiety or depression
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Age (Older people have a higher likelihood of getting ED)

Identifying risk factors help us to treat and prevent erectile dysfunction (ED).

Diagnosis and Test

General flow of diagnosis:

In order to determine whether you really have Erectile dysfunction (ED), the doctor will have to perform some tests. Further, these tests can help your doctor to decide the most suitable treatment options for you, and detect any underlying conditions that may be causing your ED.

For normal people (who don’t have chronic health conditions, doctors do not suspect any underlying health conditions)

A doctor can diagnose your ED and recommend suitable treatment just through a physical exam and answering some questions about your lifestyle.

Physical exam

A physical exam checks your entire physical health. These tests are also not painful.

A doctor measuring the blood pressure of a patient

For all patients

The doctor will examine your penis and testicles.

For patients of a certain age, or if they have risk factors for ED

The doctor will examine your heartbeat and take your blood pressure

For patients of a certain age, or family history of ED

The doctor will perform a rectal exam to check the prostate. may also recommend a rectal exam to check your prostate.

Questions about your lifestyle and health history

  • Your doctor will try to find out about your lifestyle, health and sexual history. Through this, they can determine the severity of your ED.
    • You are highly encouraged to share information about the drugs you take, if you smoke or how much alcohol you drink.
    • They may also ask about some stressors in your life lately. You should try speaking openly to your doctor, so they can help find an effective treatment for you.

If you have any chronic health conditions (known or suspected by your doctor):

You might have to take additional tests on top of the above tests, or have a consultation with a specialist.

These tests include:

  • Blood tests.
    • The doctor will take a sample of your blood, and send it to a lab to screen for signs of other conditions like heart disease, diabetes, low testosterone levels
  • Urine tests (urinalysis).
    • Similar to blood tests, this test also checks for signs of other health conditions like diabetes.
  • Ultrasound (performed by a specialist)
    • The specialist will hold a wand-like device (transducer) over the blood vessels that supply the penis, to create a video image that helps to check for blood flow problems.
    • This test can be done together with an injection of medications into the penis to stimulate blood flow and produce an erection.
  • Psychological exam.
    • Your doctor might ask some questions regarding problems in your relationship with your partner.
    • This is to check for possible psychological causes of ED (e.g. depression)
  • Injection test.
    • A medication will be injected into your penis to stimulate an erection. This helps your doctor evaluate the firmness of the erection and how long it remains firm.

For more information or if you require a medical consultation, please contact My Healthcare Collective here.

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