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Erectile dysfunction (impotence) is the inability to get and keep an erection firm enough for sex. Having erection trouble from time to time isn't necessarily a cause for concern. But if erectile dysfunction is an ongoing problem, it may cause stress, cause relationship problems or affect your self-confidence. Even though it may seem awkward to talk with your doctor about erectile dysfunction, go in for an evaluation. Problems getting or keeping an erection can be a sign of a health condition that needs treatment, such as heart disease or poorly controlled diabetes. Treating an underlying problem may be enough to reverse your erectile dysfunction. If treating an underlying condition doesn't help your erectile dysfunction, medications or other direct treatments may work.
Complications of Erectile Dysfunction
Complications resulting from erectile dysfunction can include:
Causes of Erectile Dysfunction
Male sexual arousal is a complex process that involves the brain, hormones, emotions, nerves, muscles and blood vessels. Erectile dysfunction can result from a problem with any of these. Likewise, stress and mental health problems can cause or worsen erectile dysfunction. Sometimes a combination of physical and psychological issues cause erectile dysfunction. For instance, a minor physical problem that slows your sexual response may cause anxiety about maintaining an erection. The resulting anxiety can lead to or worsen erectile dysfunction.
Physical causes of erectile dysfunction
In most cases, erectile dysfunction is caused by something physical. Common causes include:
Psychological causes of erectile dysfunction
The brain plays a key role in triggering the series of physical events that cause an erection, starting with feelings of sexual excitement. A number of things can interfere with sexual feelings and cause or worsen erectile dysfunction. These include:
Signs & Symptoms of Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction is the inability to maintain an erection firm enough for sex, on an ongoing basis. Symptoms related to erectile dysfunction may include:
Diagnosis of Erectile Dysfunction
For many men, a physical exam and answering questions (medical history) are all that's needed before a doctor is ready to recommend a treatment. If your doctor suspects that underlying problems may be involved, or you have chronic health problems, you may need further tests or you may need to see a specialist.
Tests for underlying problems may include:
Treatments of Erectile Dysfunction
The first thing your doctor will do is to make sure you're getting the right treatment for any health problems that could be causing or worsening your erectile dysfunction. A variety of options exist for treating erectile dysfunction. The cause and severity of your condition, and underlying health problems, are important factors in your doctor's recommending the best treatment or treatments for you. Your doctor can explain the risks and benefits of each treatment, and will consider your preferences. Your partner's preferences also may play a role in treatment choices.
Oral medications are a successful erectile dysfunction treatment for many men. They include:
All three medications work in much the same way. These drugs enhance the effects of nitric oxide; a natural chemical your body produces that relaxes muscles in the penis. This increases blood flow and allows you to get an erection in response to sexual stimulation. These medications vary in dosage, how long they work and their side effects. Your doctor will take into account your particular situation to determine which medication may work best. Don't expect these medications to fix your erectile dysfunction immediately. You may need to work with your doctor to find the right medication and dose for you. Before taking any prescription erectile dysfunction medication (including over-the-counter supplements or herbal remedies), get your doctor's OK. Although these medications can help many people, not all men should take them to treat erectile dysfunction. These medications may not work or may be dangerous for you if you:
Other medications for erectile dysfunction include:
Penis pumps, surgery and implants
Medications may not work or may not be a good choice for you. If this is the case, your doctor may recommend a different treatment. Other treatments include:
If your erectile dysfunction is caused by stress, anxiety or depression, your doctor may suggest that you, or you and your partner, visit a psychologist or counselor. Even if it is caused by something physical, erectile dysfunction can create stress and relationship tension.
Prevention of Erectile Dysfunction
The best way to prevent erectile dysfunction is to make healthy lifestyle choices and to manage any existing health problems you have. Here are some things you can do:
When to seek Medical Advice
A family doctor is a good place to start when you have erectile problems. See your doctor if:
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