Who can get erectile dysfunction?
Anyone with a penis can get ED, and it is very common. In the US, about 30 million men have erectile dysfunction.
You are more likely to develop erectile dysfunction as you age. Half of men over the age of 40 experience ED at some point in their lives.
Other risk factors include:
How do doctors diagnose erectile dysfunction?
Doctors can often diagnose ED by getting your medical history and conducting a physical examination. However, they usually also try to diagnose the underlying cause of the condition, so they may also perform:
- Blood tests to check for abnormal hormone levels or signs of heart disease
- Urine tests to look for signs of diabetes
- An ultrasound to check for blood flow issues
- A mental health screening to check for depression or other mental health conditions
Erectile dysfunction treatments
Once your doctor diagnoses the underlying cause of your ED, they will recommend a treatment to help.
Common treatments include:
There are four medications available that may help alleviate your erectile dysfunction:
These medications increase the effects of nitric oxide in the body. This allows the muscles of the penis to relax and increases the amount of blood flowing to the area.
These prescriptions don’t work without external stimulation, though. Once you have some sexual stimulation, your penile nerves will release some nitric oxide, and you may see an improvement in the strength or duration of your erection.
Please note: Medications for erectile dysfunction can be dangerous if you have low blood pressure, have suffered heart disease or heart failure, or are taking nitrate drugs for chest pain.
A prescription injection of Alprostadil expands the blood vessels of the penis, allowing more blood to flow into them. In about 80% of people who try it, this injection results in an erection that leads to successful intercourse. It starts to work five to 10 minutes after injection. With this medication, your erection may continue even after you have had an orgasm, but it should not last longer than one hour.
Alprostadil is also available as a cream that you can rub on the penis or as a suppository that you insert into your urethra. The suppository is not often prescribed because it is not as effective and has more side effects.
If your erectile dysfunction is caused by low levels of testosterone, your doctor may prescribe medication to balance your hormone levels. Once you have a higher level of testosterone, your erectile dysfunction may go away.
A penis pump is a medical suction device that can help draw blood into the penis to create an erection. First, you put a penis ring around the base of your penis or around your testicles and penis to hold the blood in your penis longer.
Then, the suction device goes over your penis. The pump creates a vacuum that sucks blood into your penis, creating an erection that usually lasts long enough for sexual intercourse.
Doctors only recommend surgery for erectile dysfunction when no other treatments have worked. During this procedure, doctors insert either an inflatable or bendable implant into your penis, allowing you to control when you have an erection.
Increasing your amount of exercise, making healthier food choices, and lowering your caloric intake have been shown to treat erectile dysfunction, especially in people who are obese. In general, losing weight if you are obese may help to improve the strength and duration of your erections. Experts believe this is because losing weight reduces your risk for other conditions that can cause erectile dysfunction, such as diabetes.
One study showed that people who followed diets that had higher amounts of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and lower amounts of red meat, full-fat dairy products, and sugar also had a lower risk of dealing with erectile dysfunction.
While studies show that modest alcohol use can actually protect against ED, drinking too much over a long period of time can lead to the condition. One study showed that 72% of men who dealt with alcohol addiction also had some form of sexual dysfunction, including erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, or a lack of sexual desire.
Quitting smoking is another way to reduce the symptoms of erectile dysfunction.
Mental health treatment
If your erectile dysfunction is caused by a mental health concern like depression or anxiety, seeing a counselor or a therapist may help to address the underlying issue and provide some coping mechanisms to help in sexual situations. If you work with a psychiatrist, they can also prescribe medications to help with your mental health concerns.