5 Things Every Guy Needs to Know About Erectile Dysfunction

The notion men are “only after one thing” isn’t a fair assessment of the entire gender, particularly for guys who can’t always perform. When a man struggles with erectile dysfunction, the thought of sealing the deal is a lot more worrisome than wonderful. Because the condition feels so isolating, most would rather not talk about it. But this means everyone’s missing out on some pretty important discussions. Whether you’re already managing erectile dysfunction or just want to be prepared in the event it becomes an issue later on, these are the things you need to know.

1. It’s remarkably common

sad man sits on the end of the bed while his partner looks stern

Upset man in bed | Source: iStock

A number of studies have sampled large populations in an effort to figure out just how prevalent erectile dysfunction is in America. One example published in The American Journal of Medicine surveyed more than 2,000 men, finding 18.4% of all males aged 20 and older have erectile dysfunction. They also reported this prevalence increases with age. Results from a 1994 study came to a similar conclusion, reporting 52% of males between the age of 40 and 70 have some sort of erectile dysfunction.

Maybe more interestingly, though, is how many younger males are having difficulties. According to more recent research published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, one out of every four new diagnoses occurs in men under the age of 40. While we may not know exactly why this is the case, Medical News Today said erectile dysfunction usually boils down to something going wrong with blood flow, nervous supply, or hormones. Usually, but not always. We’ll get to that a bit later.

2. The problem can stem from the mind

stressed man sits on a bed while he rubs his temples

Man rubbing temples as he sits on the side of a bed | Source: iStock

While many guys hope a visit to the doctor will offer a quick and easy solution to erectile dysfunction, that’s not always the way it works. Yes, low testosterone is often the culprit, but there might not be anything wrong with your body’s physiology. Very frequently, your mental state can affect the ability to achieve an erection. For some, it’s a type of performance anxiety. In simple terms, the stress over whether you’ll be able to adequately have sex spikes your adrenaline, making it incredibly difficult to become aroused.

Anxiety isn’t the only psychological factor, either. According to Everyday Health, depression, low self-esteem, and worries related to work can also lead to erectile dysfunction. If a visit to the doctor doesn’t reveal anything wrong, it might be time to consider speaking with a therapist. Many specialize in sex and relationships, so they’re your best bet.

3. It isn’t the only sexual disorder

a heterosexual couple lie on their stomachs in bed while they have a discussion

Young couple arguing in bed | Source: iStock

When a man talks about having problems in the bedroom, most of our minds go straight to erectile dysfunction. In truth, there are many different types of sexual dysfunction. Cleveland Clinic highlighted the most common among men, which are erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, delayed ejaculation, and low libido.

Of course, women can experience a completely separate set of issues. This is definitely something to keep in mind if you have a female partner who seems skittish when it comes to being intimate.

4. There could be underlying health problems

close-up of a man checking his blood sugar

Man with diabetes checks his blood sugar | Source: iStock

A whole host of separate medical conditions can lead to erectile dysfunction, but some are more obvious than others. Mayo Clinic shared a comprehensive list of the conditions that cause issues. In some cases, erectile dysfunction can actually be a warning that something much more severe is lurking. The link to heart disease is particularly concerning.

The accumulation of plaque building up in the arteries that leads to heart attack and other cardiovascular problems, called atherosclerosis, inhibits blood flow. An article published in Circulation explained it usually affects blood supply to the penis first, indicating a heart attack or stroke is a handful of years away. In this sense, erectile dysfunction can actually be a good thing if it spurs treatment early on.

Research has also demonstrated a strong link between erectile dysfunction and diabetes. One study published in the Annals of Family Medicine found men with the sexual disorder were more than twice as likely to have undiagnosed diabetes compared to men who experienced regular erections.

5. There are multiple ways to treat it

Healthy resolutions written on a piece of paper

Healthy resolutions written on a piece of paper | Source: iStock

Though erectile dysfunction can sometimes go away on its own, it seems a little silly to take that approach when there are so many options. In many cases, lifestyle changes can make a huge difference. Losing weight, quitting smoking, and eating healthier are all good examples. A study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found men who increased physical activity and made efforts to eat better experienced an improvement in erectile function. One 2011 study showed it’s possible to see results in just eight weeks.

As for other options, most people already know about Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra. Harvard Health Publications explained these medications improve blood supply and work for about 70% of men. How long the effect lasts depends on which one you choose. To figure out what will meet your needs, talk to your doctor.

You might be surprised to hear you also have some non-oral options. According to Men’s Journal, suppositories and direct injections are also available. While these might sound like unpleasant treatments, the effects are significantly more immediate that oral medications. We’re talking minutes. Again, you’ll need to discuss treatments with your doctor.

Lastly, don’t forget about talking to a specialist if you’re struggling with anxiety or another psychological factor. Even if there’s a treatable physical condition, that doesn’t rule out the role the mind plays. And always maintain open, honest communication with your partner.

Follow Christine on Twitter @christineskopec

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