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What is Erectile Dysfunction?

Put simply, Erectile dysfunction (ED – male impotence) is the inability to develop an erection and/or to maintain an erection long enough to finish sexual intercourse. Also known as impotence or abbreviated as ED, approximately 30 million men in the United States experience chronic erectile dysfunction. This estimate is a rough one, however, because many men are too embarrassed to discuss erectile dysfunction with their physicians, leading to an under-reporting of the condition.

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Flaccid Penis

Erections begin in the brain, when a physical or mental stimulus triggers nerves to command penile blood vessels to relax. As these blood vessels relax, more blood flows into the penis and causes it to become erect, which is maintained by an increase in blood pressure. At the peak of sexual excitement, the brain and penis communicate again, and chemical messages to the penis cause ejaculation.

For men with erectile dysfunction, this process of getting and sustaining an erection until ejaculation short-circuits. Sometimes the short circuit happens in the brain for psychological reasons; other times the short circuit occurs because the heart cannot provide the penis with enough blood, or chemical substances interfere with signals sent by the nervous system.

What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?

There are a number of causes for erectile dysfunction, including the following:

  • Chronic illnesses – including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke
  • Medical treatments – including prescription medications such as antidepressants, pain relievers, and high blood pressure medication, as well as certain surgeries for the prostate or bladder and radiation to the testicles
  • Psychological problems – including depression, stress, and anxiety
  • Other physical problems – including permanent or temporary injuries, fatigue, insomnia, and hormonal disorders

Treatments for Erectile Dysfunction

The treatment a man chooses for ED will depend upon what’s causing the condition. In some cases, a change in diet or lifestyle is enough to solve the problem. In other instances, a man may need to rely upon a prescription medication to end erectile dysfunction. Some of the most common medications include Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis. As each of these medications may have certain side effects and cannot be taken with particular medications, a man should speak to his doctor before treating his ED with any ED medication.

Men who suspect they have a persistent form of erectile dysfunction should speak with their physician. A physician can properly diagnose erectile dysfunction and recommend a safe course of treatment that takes all factors into account.

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