This blog is written by our clinicians and aims to keep patients informed with up to date information on medical conditions.
What is erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is defined as the inability to achieve or maintain an erection, sufficient enough for sexual intercourse. The speculation that ED only appears in older men is far from the truth, it is a common complaint, affecting 1 in 5 men and over 140 million men worldwide. The bad news – It is thought that every man experiences ED at least once in his lifetime. The good news – there are plenty of treatment opportunities.
ED is often confused for sexual performance anxiety; this happens when concerns arise relating to a lack of self-confidence, regarding body image or the ability to pleasure your partner. Sexual performance anxiety can lead to ED, triggering the stress hormones; epinephrine and norepinephrine to constrict the blood vessels in the penis, resulting in a lack of blood flow causing the penis to remain flaccid.
What causes erectile dysfunction?
Physically, there are some health conditions that can contribute to erectile dysfunction, such as cardiovascular complications, diabetes, kidney disease, multiple sclerosis and obesity. However, for numerous men, psychological issues such as depression, anxiety and chronic stress may be a factor.
During lockdown, it has been reported that more than two-thirds (69%) of adults in the UK have felt somewhat, or very worried about the impact COVID-19 is having on their lives; worrying about the future (63%), feeling anxious or stressed (56%) and feeling bored (49%). The lockdown has caused many people to feel socially isolated, particularly those who live alone or have been shielding.
Is lockdown affecting my sex life?
Lifestyle choices can contribute to erectile dysfunction by reducing blood flow to the penis and lowering testosterone levels. Excessive use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs can damage the blood vessels, decreasing the availability of nitric oxide, which is the motive for the blood genital flow. In April 2020, Opinium carried out a study consisting of 2,000 adults, it’s findings were that a staggering 27% adults reported consuming more alcohol during lockdown than they normally would.
Another clear link to the development of sexual performance anxiety and ED is pornography. The use of pornography can change the way the brain reacts to ‘real-life’ arousal. A recent study consisting of 350 compulsive pornography users, proclaimed a 26.7% correspondence with sexual dysfunction. There has been a rise in the viewing of pornography during the national lockdown period. One of the world’s leading pornography websites found the usage surge by 22% in April 2020, in comparison to the previous month.
How is erectile dysfunction diagnosed?
In order to treat ED, it is important to understand the root cause. At ROC, a number of tests will be carried out; physical examination, blood tests, blood pressure checks, heart tracing (ECG) and urine examination. These tests check for the risk factors associated with the risk of narrowing blood vessels in the body.
What treatments are available?
We know that erectile dysfunction affects both partners in a relationship and therefore, we are treating two individuals at the same time when treating erectile dysfunction. In some cases, ED can be improved by addressing lifestyle risk factors, such as, diet, smoking and alcohol.
ED can be treated with medication – Viagra being the most eminent. Other similar mediations include Cialis and Levitra. They work by creating a chemical response, which stimulates blood flow to the pelvis, and widens the blood vessels during sexual arousal. It is important to seek advice from a doctor before taking these medications as some medications can interact. Topical medications can be applied directly to, or into the penis as a cream, injections or pellets. If the blood tests reveal low testosterone levels and ED symptoms are present, testosterone replacement may be used.
If medication is not appropriate, there are other forms of treatment such as vacuum devices. At our Aberdeen clinic we offer Morenova Low Intensity Shock wave therapy; this works by using low intensity shockwaves to restore penile blood flow and improve sexual function. In more severe cases, there are surgical options such as penile prosthesis. This is where two inflatable cylinders are inserted inside the scrotum, allowing fluid to be pumped into the cylinders to achieve an erection. It contains a release valve to deflate the penis after orgasm.
When to seek help.
Having this medical issue now and again does not necessarily cause a problem. If this issue is ongoing, it can generate stress, anxiety, self-confidence and can contribute to relationship problems. Erectile dysfunction can be a sign of an underlying medical condition, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and even hormonal issues. Therefore, it is important to seek medical assistance.