Erectile dysfunction is another name for male impotency, characterized by the inability to obtain or sustain an erection for penetration. Male erection is a hydraulic function where blood enters the penis and is retained in it. There are a number of ways by which this physiological function can be impaired. It should be noted, however, that erectile dysfunction is as much of a psychological condition as it is physiological. Psychologically erectile dysfunction is where erection and penetration is not possible due to thoughts and feelings.
Nocturnal erections often indicate that the physiological functions are working properly. However, a fair percentage of sexually active men do not get nocturnal erections, and is not cause for concern. Failure of getting a full or rigid erection or losing it before penetration is a sign of physiological disorders. This could either be due to inability of the mechanical structure to hold blood in the penis or an underlying clinical disorder.
Treatment modalities for erectile dysfunction involve moving from the least to the most incursive therapies. However, this should be done only after determining the cause behind the problem. Psychological impotency, for example, has a strong placebo effect and sexual performance products hardly play a role in its treatment. In such cases, changes in lifestyle like quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake, controlling weight, following an herbal and natural diet, and getting regular exercise help in regaining sexual function. In extreme cases, psychotherapy may be advised to tackle anxiety associated with intercourse. The patient’s partner can play an important role in treatment if physiological causes are discovered.
The physiological cause of erectile dysfunction is mostly a reduction of blood supply to the penis due to damage/injury to inner walls of the blood vessels, mostly in elder men or due to cardiovascular diseases or diabetes. Rarely, a hormonal imbalance is discovered and treated with hormonal supplements.
Erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation treatment have traditionally been done with folk medicines and herbs. In 1998, prescription medications gained FDA approval for the treatment of erectile dysfunction, accompanied by high fanfare caused by aggressive marketing.
Drug therapy involves oral administration or direct injection of the drug into the penis or inserted into the urethra from the tip of the penis. Taken one hour before intercourse, these drugs work receive effectiveness from nitric oxide, a chemical that relaxes smooth muscles in the penis responsible for increasing blood flow.
Most of the treatments have a temporary effect and do not provide a permanent cure, except in the case of hormonal supplementation. There are other treatments available like vacuum devices and surgery to implant a device, to reconstruct arteries to increase blood flow, or block veins to stop blood leakage.
Occasional erectile dysfunction is normal with most men, and may not occur the next time you have sex. Treating it as a permanent condition can be a cause of great mental and emotional stress. Try to talk about it frankly with your partner, and arrive at a decision together to help decide whether you need to treat it or not.