Understanding erectile dysfunction, a leading men’s health concern

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Among the many different health issues affecting men, erectile dysfunction is one of the most reported problems, and is something easy to discuss during June - Men's Health Month.

Unfortunately, men may feel embarrassed to talk about sexual dysfunction concerns with doctors. At SIU Medicine, the team encourages men to break the stigma and help raise awareness about this common condition that is thought to affect 30 million men. 

What is erectile dysfunction?

Many men experience occasional difficulty with achieving or sustaining an erection suitable for physical intimacy. But when it becomes a frequent and recurring issue, a man can be said to have erectile dysfunction (ED). 

Common causes and risk factors for erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction can be caused by a variety of underlying reasons, including impaired blood flow to the penis, damage to nerves in the penis, stress or another underlying medical condition. 

It's most common in men older than 50, but it can affect men of all ages. In addition to advancing age, specific risk factors include:

  • High blood sugar (diabetes)
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • High cholesterol 
  • Alcohol and tobacco use
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Physical inactivity

A majority of these risk factors are within a person's control. With the help of a doctor, a person with erectile dysfunction can adopt healthy lifestyle changes to manage his ED more effectively—or avoid it altogether.  

Treatment and management techniques for erectile dysfunction

If you or a male loved one is having signs and symptoms of erectile dysfunction, treatment by an experienced physician is critical. Understanding the root cause can help you find an effective solution. Additionally, erectile dysfunction is often an early warning sign for heart disease. Seeking treatment for ED may alert you or your loved one to another underlying problem requiring medical intervention. 

Depending on individual health needs, a person's erectile dysfunction treatment may include:

  • Medications to make it easier to get and sustain an erection, such as phosphodiesterase type-5 inhibitors (Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra)
  • Testosterone therapy (low testosterone, which is common with advancing age, can lead to worsening erections)Penile injections
  • Penile prosthesis implants or vacuum erection devices
  • Lifestyle modifications

Understandably, many men who experience erectile dysfunction also deal with emotional and mental challenges including stress, shame, depression and anxiety. Psychotherapy and other avenues may be indicated to complement the medical treatment and optimize outcomes.

Do you know someone affected by erectile dysfunction?

Healthy men can expect to enjoy healthy sex lives well into their 60s, 70s and 80s. If you or someone you know has concerns about erectile dysfunction, or have any other concerns regarding their health, connect with the SIU Medicine Men’s Health Team. Call 217.545.8000 to schedule an appointment or speak with a medical team member with your questions. With us, your privacy is always prioritized. 

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