Facing Erectile Dysfunction

Author: Dr Luke Pratsides MBBS MSc MRCGP MFCI Lead GP, Numan

A healthy sex life is important for any man, yet men are often reluctant to open up when sex isn’t going so well. In many cultures men may believe that having difficulty with sex is a sign of weakness and therefore are reluctant to discuss sexual issues with anyone, let alone seek help from their doctors. One of the most common problems men face with sex is difficulty getting or maintaining an erection, known as erectile dysfunction. A recent study from the UK demonstrated that erectile dysfunction is a  problem faced by an increasing number of men of all ages. Of particular concern was the finding that globally young men under 40 had exceptionally high rate of erectile dysfunction and up to 50% of men under the age of 50 were affected by erectile dysfunction.
Erectile dysfunction is definitely something to discuss with a GP as it can often be a sign of an underlying medical problem. In order to get and maintain an erection it is important to have a good flow of blood to the penis. With advancing age all men will have some degree of plaque build up inside their blood vessels and stiffening of the blood vessel walls, known as  atherosclerosis. For some men this means that the blood vessels cannot provide the increased flow of blood to the penis required to achieve an erection. Conditions like high cholesterol and diabetes can speed up this process of atherosclerosis and increase the likelihood of erectile dysfunction. More worryingly, conditions like diabetes and cholesterol affect all blood vessels and can, if left untreated, lead to life threatening heart attacks and strokes.  It is important to speak to your doctor who can organise blood tests and advise on the best treatment for conditions like diabetes and high cholesterol. If you are a smoker it is important to see help to quit as this can also worsen atherosclerosis. There is not always a physical cause and sometimes erectile dysfunction can be a sign of stress, depression or anxiety. If you speak up and see your doctor they can support you to find the best ways dealing with any mental health issues and prevent them becoming a worsening problem. Lifestyle is also an important factor and more than 14 units of alcohol a week or use of recreational drugs can also cause erectile dysfunction.
Medication to treat erectile dysfunction is widely available on prescription, and in the case of viagra connect, available over the counter from the pharmacist. However, it is crucial to speak to your doctor about erectile dysfunction;  there is no shame in talking about erectile dysfunction but it would be a shame if an underlying cause leads to serious mental or physical health problems.
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