Erectile dysfunction is more common than you think. Whether you’re looking to learn about impotence to help your partner or need some advice yourself, we’ve got the answers to help
Erectile dysfunction (ED) or impotence, is a common problem affecting one in three men. In fact, more men will experience erectile dysfunction than you’d ever suspect.
However, according to the Sexual Advice Association (SAA) only around ten per cent of sufferers seek and receive treatment.
Even a quick Google search doesn’t bring up the same amount of information or advice women would be able to find out in an instant about their sexual function.
more men will experience erectile dysfunction than you’d ever suspect
Both men and women are unclear on what can cause erectile dysfunction as well as what can be done to help – other than Viagra of course.
Whether you’re looking to learn about ED to help your partner or yourself, Healthista spoke to Samantha Evans, co-founder of sex toy company Jo Divine.
As a regular features writer, she has extensive knowledge on sexual health and works with many health professionals on how to talk to their patients about sexual function and intimacy.
From performance anxiety to what you can do to help prevent ED, here’s what Samantha wants you to know…
What is erectile dysfunction?
Erections are caused by physical stimulation such as direct touch, squeezing the PC muscles, oral sex, or the psychological excitement of fantasy or flirting.
Not only does an erection require physical touch but also brain function, the nervous system, blood vessels and emotions.
when the blood vessels inside the erectile tissue become blocked
However, if there is a physical, hormonal, emotional or psychological imbalance, erectile dysfunction may occur.
Without getting too technical, erectile dysfunction or impotence, is when the blood vessels inside the erectile tissue become blocked, stopping the blood flow to the penis.
(If you do want to read a more technical explanation, check out the Jo Divine blog).
This is exactly what happens in heart disease, so often when men have heart disease, they also often have erectile issues.
What causes erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction generally tends to appear in mid-life and is usually caused by the lifestyle issues that can develop with age, such as diabetes from excess sugar, heart disease, having an enlarged prostate or being overweight.
An enlarged prostate not only causes issues with erectile function but can also cause someone to get up several times during the night to go to the toilet, and not feeling like their bladder has been emptied.
For men who are overweight, the penis can become imbedded in the fat pad and therefore will look shorter and doesn’t work as well as it should do.
Heavy drinking and smoking can also impact the likelihood of erectile issues, as does lack of exercise.
excess alcohol damages the nerves to the penis
A little alcohol may get you aroused, but a lot blunts the desire in your brain and can make it hard to reach climax.
Over time excess alcohol damages the nerves to the penis that trigger an erection, and eventually, testosterone levels may plummet.
If you are taking medication for heart disease, have high blood pressure, diabetes or on anti-depressants, this can be a major cause for erectile dysfunction.
Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy can also affect sexual function.
Sometimes it is worth trialling different medication to see what works best and has fewer side effects.
There are also psychological causes of erectile dysfunction, such as stress, anxiety, money worries and low self-esteem.
Performance anxiety is a common cause for erectile dysfunction as men can become increasingly worried about how they have to maintain an erection and perform.
For example, if a man loses his erection during sex or whilst putting on a condom that can have a negative impact mentally when having sex the next time.
This can be especially common in younger men in particular, which is why they often turn to Viagra.
Can ED cause relationship issues?
For both partners to enjoy penetrative sex you need to have an erection, however if your partner loses their erection during sex, ejaculates too quickly or has delayed ejaculation it can cause problems in the bedroom and therefore relationships.
Don’t laugh at your partner or make them feel bad for not being able to perform in the bedroom. It’s important to reassure them and explain that these issues can occur at any age and that they should not feel embarrassed and should speak to their GP.
Remember communication is always key.
How soon should you speak to your GP?
People seem to be not aware of how to take care of their sexual health until something happens to them.
Most men don’t bother going to see the GP, either from embarrassment or because they don’t think it’s a problem or because they simply don’t want to discuss it.
Although impotence is a common issue, and is usually related to stress, it can sometimes relate to a more serious underlying health issue such as diabetes or heart disease so it is really important you speak to a medical professional about any concerns you have as soon as possible.
We need to get men talking about the well being of their sexual and intimate health
I’ve spoken to women who told me their partner admitted that they wished they had gone to their GP with the symptoms sooner, before they were diagnosed with prostate cancer.
There is plenty of focus on women’s sexual health but not enough on men’s sexual health. Often the main reason men don’t want to go and have a prostate exam is because it involves something going up their bottom.
What I say to this is, we all have to do things that may be uncomfortable, but this is short-term discomfort for long-term reassurance.
Women have to go through smear tests and although uncomfortable at the time, they feel much reassured knowing they are taking preventative measures and looking after their health.
We need to get men talking about the well being of their sexual and intimate health and what they can do to maintain and a promote good erection.
What treatments are available?
Pelvic Floor Exercises
Men have a pelvic floor too, just like women but very few men are aware that doing pelvic floor exercises can increase penile hardness and rigidity, improving the quality of your erections.
It is recommended that you seek advice from a physiotherapist, trained in men’s health to instruct you how to do these exercises correctly.
Preventing erectile dysfunction is linked to a healthy lifestyle, from eating a Mediterranean diet to exercising regularly. Heavy drinking and smoking should also be monitored.
Try also to reduce stress by taking more time to look after your mental health.
Exercising the penis is also important. It’s a muscle that should have regular erections and ejaculate often.
This keeps your prostate happy and prevents it from swelling up, which reduces your risk of prostate cancer by 22 per cent.
It’s a muscle that should have regular erections
If you’re not having regular erections and having blood perfusing into the erectile tissue to keep it happy and healthy then you wont achieve strong erections or orgasms.
Viagra is available over the counter and are a popular treatment for erectile dysfunction. It is taken 30 minutes before sex and lasts for up to four hours.
Viagra has enabled many men to enjoy sex again, however, doctors stress that oral medication will only be effective if a man feels sexual desire and has some form of foreplay. He won’t get an automatic erection half an hour after popping a pill.
Nowadays, men in their late teens and early 20’s are also using Viagra as they are worried about their performance and put pressure on themselves getting an erection straight away.
There are male masturbators that can help to promote an erection by creating stimulation.
The Bathmate Hydromax is a pump that uses warm water to help to open up the blood vessels inside the penis. We recommend using it two to three times a week in the shower.
a pump that uses warm water to help to open up the blood vessels inside the penis
Those who have tried and tested this penis pump have admitted to having firmer and quicker erections.
If your ED is caused by psychological issues, then using this pump can help as seeing yourself get an erection will give you more confidence in your ability and performance.
Constriction rings also known as cock rings, can also help by increasing blood circulation and trapping blood in the penis for a period of time (this is therefore a more temporary fix).
They should not be worn for more than 30 minutes and are not recommended for men who have circulatory problems.
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