Erectile Disfunction Facts and Myths
Help! I Have Erectile Dysfunction and I Need Treatment Options
This is usually what I hear from the men walking in my office each day. Unfortunately, it often takes them awhile to work up the courage to walk through my door. Although erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common problem, it remains a taboo topic that men don’t like to discuss. However, it shouldn’t go ignored because ED can be an early sign of a more serious health condition like diabetes or heart disease. We would like to debunk myths around ED and urge men to talk to a doctor about any changes in the ability to get or maintain an erection.
Myth: ED is no big deal.
ED can be an early sign of a serious health problem – potential high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease. In order to have an erection, a man needs to have healthy blood vessels and nerves. Diabetes is a disease that attacks blood vessels and nerves so it is common for men with diabetes to experience ED. Likewise, if blood vessels are blocked by coronary artery disease it can limit the flow of blood to various parts of the body. The arteries supplying blood to the penis are much smaller than the ones supplying blood to the heart. As a result, heart disease may first show itself as difficulty achieving an erection.1
Myth: ED is a natural part of getting older.
ED is not an inevitable part of aging; it is contingent on your health and lifestyle. That is why it is important to identify the underlying issues that could be causing ED.
Myth: If I can get an erection, I don’t have ED.
Men tend to think that if they can get an erection, they do not have ED. The reality is, ED can present itself as erections that cannot be maintained or in erections that aren’t firm enough.
Myth: Viagra is the only treatment.
The first step to treating ED is identifying the underlying issues that could be causing it. Once more serious conditions are ruled out; medication is usually the first line of therapy. However, up to 50 percent of men with ED do not respond to pharmaceutical treatments and require a different option, especially men with diabetes and heart disease.2-5 Other treatment options include:
• Injections: A needle is used to inject medication directly into the penis. The medication allows blood to flow into the penis, creating an erection.
• Vacuum Erection Devices: A plastic cylinder is placed over the penis, and a pump (manual or battery operated) creates a vacuum suction within it, drawing blood into the penis to create an erection. A stretchable tension band placed at the base of the penis helps maintain the erection.
• Intraurethral Suppositories: An applicator containing a small pellet is inserted into the urethra and the pellet is released. The pellet dissolves and increases blood flow to the penis, creating an erection.
• Penile Implants: A medical device is implanted in the penis, contained entirely within the body that allows direct control of both the timing and duration of an erection.
Myth: My ED must be psychological.
While depression or anxiety can cause ED, the condition most often has a physical cause. Some depression medications may bring on ED. 6 However, suddenly stopping antidepressants is very dangerous and the issue should be resolved with a doctor.