Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is a condition in which a man has difficulty getting or keeping an erection that's firm enough for sex. Dr. Patel, what can you tell us about ED?
Well, Dr. Green, ED becomes more common as men get older, but it's not a natural part of aging. Most men have occasional problems with erections, but ED may be diagnosed when these problems occur more than half of the time.
Normally during sexual arousal, nerve messages release chemicals that increase blood flow into the penis. The blood flows into the corpora cavernosa, two erection chambers made of spongy tissue in the penis. The smooth muscle in the corpora cavernosa relaxes, which lets blood enter and stay in the chambers. The pressure of the blood in the chambers makes the penis firm, resulting in erection.
ED often results from health problems that limit blood flow in the penis, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease. In other cases, certain diseases, injury, or surgery can damage the nerves involved in erection. Erectile dysfunction can also be caused by stress or other emotional difficulties that affect sexual arousal.
Treatment for ED usually depends on the cause. A provider may suggest quitting smoking or changing other habits that may be affecting blood flow. Treatment for emotional issues or relationship problems may also be recommended.
Treatment options that are safe and effective for many cases of ED include:
- A vacuum erection device
- Oral prescription medications
- Medications injected or inserted directly into the penis, and
- A variety of surgical procedures