Why Men Should Not Ignore Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction can be a sign of a more serious health problem, especially in middle-aged men.

Quick Facts about Erectile Dysfunction (ED):

  1. ED is difficulty in getting or maintaining an erection enough to have sexual intercourse
  2. About 25% men below forty-year age may experience ED
  3. In some of these men, ED may be an indication for future heart attacks
  4. There is effective treatment for ED
  5. Heart disease in these patients is preventable by proper life style changes.

Madhav Bakshi was aware that ED can happen with age, but he never ever imagined that a guy like himself, a 36-year-old lawyer, who loved his wife Rekha could suffer this fate.

For nearly a year, the Bakshi’s sensed something was not right. “Things just weren’t the same,” says Rekha. All aspects like the desire, frequency and the lasting capacity were dwindling. Initially the thought it was related to their stressful jobs and anxieties. Slowly it appeared a real problem.

Madhav was concerned he might have a medical problem, so Rekha encouraged him to get help. After initial hesitation, they finally met a Urologist. Madhav needed a proper evaluation and could be treated by some life style changes and medications. Rekha stood by him in this period of turmoil. Medications had immediate effect and the life seemed to get back to tract instantaneously.

More young men are seeking help

Persistent or recurring ED is typically a problem of middle or old age, but it also affects an increasing number of younger men. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine noted that 1 in 4 men under the age of 40 who sought help for ED actually suffered from the condition. Almost half had severe ED.

ED can be devastating to men regardless of their age and should always be taken seriously. The Massachusetts Male Aging Study, widely considered a landmark piece of research, showed ED to be more common than suspected. It is estimated that more than 300 million men globally will suffer from the condition in 2025.

While most ED patients are effectively treated with medication, for some, the disorder is anindicator of heart disease. ED is a cardiac risk factor in 10 percent to 20 percent of patients who do not have other risk factors for heart disease.

It helps to understand how an erection works. Sexual stimulation delivers extra blood to the penis through the arteries, causing an erection. Reduction of this blood flow can lead to ED. We also know that when the arteries of the heart get blocked, we get heart attack. Penis has small arteries, so we can see the beginning of arterial hardening and heart disease in the penis before we see it in the coronary arteries or the heart. It can be said that, “if you’re a young man who is going to have a heart attack in his 50s or 60s, you may see it in the penis first.” 

Analyzing the risks

How can one tell the difference between ED that is psychological or stress-related, and ED that is a heart disease risk? 

Men in generally good health who use terms such as “performance anxiety” usually suffer from stress-induced or substance-induced ED. This is caused by anxiety, distraction or too much drinking of alcoholic beverages. These patients often respond well to drugs like Viagra. These drugs enhance the effects of nitric oxide, a natural chemical in the body that relaxes the penis muscles and increases blood flow. Once these men get good erection and are able to perform, their performance anxiety gets better, and they get better.

Such ED does not have impact on heart. This is common and is often called honeymoon impotence.

The other type of patientis, who has had agradually worsening weak erections or decreased frequency of morning erections. These men may be at higher risk for cardiac issues especially in the presence of other cardiac risk factors such as diabetes, obesity, smoking, sedentary life-style or high cholesterol. 

Social stigma

No matter what type of ED men suffer from, the first step MUST be going to the doctor—the earlier, the better. This can be difficult for younger men in view of the social stigma associated with ED. ED can have a profound effect on their relationships. They must admit to their partner that they have a problem and then they have to seek help. That can be intimidating.

Your doctor will talk to you about lifestyle changes. You will be asked to control blood pressure and diabetes, get regular exercises and loseweight. Stopping smoking is vital.

While ED medication works for most patients, there are other treatment options. These include external vacuum devices that draw blood into the penis and injections that men administer themselves to dilate the arteries of the penis and allow blood to flow in. Another option is penile implants. This is used for men who cannot tolerate the drugs and for whom other treatments fail. Flexible cylinders are embedded in the penis. The man pumps fluid into them from a reservoir when he wants to perform sexually.

For MadhavBakshi, medication proved effective. Although he learned that he is not at high risk for future heart disease issues, he has made a number of lifestyle changes—working out, eating healthier meals and cutting down on coffee. 

He continues to visit his doctor every six months. He and his wife, Rekha, are expecting their second child this summer. 

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