Erectile dysfunction is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection. Information gleaned from recent research and the popularity of products such as Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis, reveal that this is a widespread condition among men of all ages and walks of life. Understanding through education and public awareness of the problem has allowed many more men to feel more comfortable discussing erectile dysfunction with their doctors. New medications have made erectile dysfunction an extremely treatable condition.
A normal penile erection is typically achieved through an amalgam of various physical and psychological functions. Initially, sexual stimulus occurs via both psychological and physical avenues. Besides the urethra which carries urine and ejaculate, the penis is comprised of arteries, veins, and muscular and fibrous inner contours, all of which collaborate to achieve and maintain a healthy erection viable for satisfactory intercourse. Nerve impulses in the brain travel down the spinal cord and into nerve endings in the penis. Meanwhile, the muscle tissues of the penis enter a relaxed state during which veins pump increasing amounts of blood. This blood flow leads to enlargement and hardening of the penis. When the muscles, in turn, constrict, blood flow reverses, and the penis returns to its normal flaccid state. Should any of these interactions of physical or mental function become damaged or impaired, erectile dysfunction can occur. And it can occur in all ages.
There are many conditions that can cause erectile dysfunction. Preexisting medical conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases can impair sexual function. Men who have had prostate or urology surgeries are at risk for damage to nerves and veins that stimulate the penis. Hormone imbalances or drug and alcohol abuse can also interrupt normal sexual stimulation. Many medications that treat some of these typical medical conditions impair the ability to achieve an erection. Even over-the-counter cold medicines can become a factor in ED, as can smoking. Though it is often treated as a physical problem, erectile dysfunction can also be caused by psychological factors, such as stress, anxiety, and sexual disorders. Complicating this scenario are antidepressant drugs which carry a characteristic side effect of sexual dysfunction, either loss of libido or inability to achieve an erection.