Impotence, also referred to as erectile dysfunction, is the inability to get or maintain an erection that is firm enough for sexual intercourse. This is a common condition that occurs to many men occasionally especially during times of stress. Therefore, having occasional erection problem may not necessarily a cause for an alarm.
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However, erectile dysfunction occurs frequently, it could be a great sign of health problems that require urgent medical attention. Moreover, having problems in getting and keeping erection can also be an underlying medical condition and a risk factor heart disease and therefore requires treatment.
What is Impotence?
Impotence is a form of erectile dysfunction that affects the ability of a person to achieve or maintain an erection or the ability to have a proper ejaculation.
There are several contributing factors for this condition, according to research. These factors range from emotional to physical disorders.
The risk of impotence increases with age. Impotence is a serious problem to many men as it negatively affects their sex life, which might lead to low self-esteem, depression, and stress.
Fortunately, the condition can easily be addressed by understanding the potential causes and ensuring that you have a healthier lifestyle.
What are The Symptoms of Impotence?
Common erectile symptoms might include:
Persistent Problem in Achieving an Erection
This can greatly affect your sex life and result in more emotional problems such as depression, loss of self-confidence and stress.
Persistent Trouble in maintaining an Erection
Being unable to keep an erection that is firm enough to have sexual intercourse, can also affect your performance in bed. Having difficulty in keeping an erection, is one of the worst conditions that any man would wish to experience.
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Reduced Sexual Desire
The other common symptom of impotencies is the reduced sexual desire or loss of interest in engaging in sexual activities. The condition can cause enormous strain in relationships, as such men are unable to satisfy their partner.
Common Causes of Impotence
Many factors might cause impotence. This is because male sexual arousal involves many parts of the body that include the brain, nerves, emotions, muscles and blood vessels.
Psychological Causes of Impotence
One of the most important organs of male sexual arousal is the brain as it plays an important role in causing sexual excitement and a series of other physical events that result in a firm erection.
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Therefore, several things that affect the functioning of your brain can interfere with sexual feelings and cause or deteriorate the condition. Some of the common psychological causes include stress, depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
Physical Causes of Impotence
Some of the common physical causes of erectile dysfunction include:
Cardiovascular or Heart Diseases
Most cardiovascular diseases results from atherosclerosis, according to studies. Atherosclerosis is a condition that results from narrowing and hardening of the arteries, which lowers blood flow.
In most cases, atherosclerosis affects all arteries in the entire body where high cholesterol levels, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and cigarette smoking worsen the condition.
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Narrowing and stiffening of the arteries around the pelvic organs or penis may prevent a proper flow of blood into the male sexual organ. Men with severe stiffening of the heart arteries or atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries appears to suffer more impotence as compared to men with less serious or no atherosclerosis.
Men with hypertension or high blood pressure have a higher risk of developing erectile dysfunction. High blood pressure can cause problems with erections connected to atherosclerosis or low levels of nitric oxide formed in the penis arteries.
Impotence tends to start about years earlier in diabetic men as compared to non-diabetic men, according to studies. The high risk of developing erectile dysfunction among men with diabetes may be caused by significant severity or earlier onset of hardening of arteries, which reduces the flow of blood the penis. Besides, diabetes mellitus may cause impotence by destroying the nerves that lead to the penis or other areas of the body.
Injury To The Spinal Cord or Nerves
The other common cause of impotence is the damage of the nerves around the pelvic region or the spinal cord. Nerve damage may result from trauma, disease or side-effects from a surgical operation gone wrong.
These include nerves injury in the pelvic area after surgery to prostate cancer patients (prostatectomy), spinal cord injuries from automobile accidents and colorectal cancer surgeries.
Cigarette smoking can increase the risks of impotence by causing spasms of the arteries (vasospasm), or by worsening atherosclerosis.
Some medications come with impotence as one of the potential side effects. Some of the medicines that may lead to erectile dysfunction include drugs that prescribed to treat hypertension, tranquilizers, depression, hypertension, antihistamines, and appetite suppressants.
Hypogonadism (Low Levels of Testosterone)
Testosterone is the major sex hormone that brings about sex drive in men but is also important in maintaining the right levels of nitric oxide in the sex organ. Thus, men with low testosterone levels appear to have a low libido and impotence.
Older men are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction as compared to younger men. This is because older men have a higher risk of developing diseases that are linked to erectile dysfunction like heart attacks, cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, angina, strokes and high blood pressure. Also, the aging process causes changes in the tissue and muscle within the penis.
Abusing certain substances may contribute to impotence. Such drugs include cocaine, heroin, crystal meth, marijuana, narcotic, methamphetamines, and alcohol abuse.
For instance, alcoholism may cause damage to the nerves, lower testosterone levels, and lead to shrinking of the testicles.
Common Risk Factors of Impotence
Getting and keeping a firm erection might take longer and become difficult as you age. Consequently, you might need direct touch to your penis to achieve and maintain an erection. Some common risk factors that might contribute to erectile dysfunction includes:
Obesity or Being Overweight
This is connected to narrowing and hardening of arteries, high blood cholesterol levels, which affects the flow of blood to the penis or lead to other health conditions that are linked to erectile dysfunction.
Certain Medical Conditions
This includes health conditions such as diabetes mellitus and heart conditions.
Long-term tobacco use restricts blood flow in the arteries and the veins, which might lead to chronic health conditions over time that are linked to erectile dysfunction.
Most common medications lead to erectile dysfunction. These include antihistamines, antidepressants, and other drugs that are used in the treatment of high blood pressure, pain or prostate conditions.
Suffering from severe injuries that may lead to the damage to nerves or arteries that control erections increase* the risk of developing erectile dysfunction.
Substance and Alcohol Use
Excessive use of alcohol or long-term use of drugs increases* the risk of experiencing the condition.
Various psychological conditions such as anxiety, depression or stress may cause or worsen the condition.
Certain Medical Procedures or Treatments
Some of the medical treatments such as prostate surgery or radiation treatment for cancer increases* the risk of erectile dysfunction. This is because they might cause damage to the nerves or affects the flow of blood to the pelvic region.
When Do I See A Doctor?
Many men find it hard to determine when to see a doctor as occasional erectile dysfunction is common. However, it is essential to consult your doctor when erectile dysfunction symptoms start to worry you so much by causing anxiety or threatening to spoil your sexual relationship. You should see or consult your doctor if:
- You have some concerns about your erections or if you are experiencing other, sexual related problems like delayed or premature ejaculation.
- You have a health condition that is associated with erectile dysfunction such as heart disease or diabetes.
- You happen to have other symptoms that worsen the erectile dysfunction problem.
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How is Impotence Diagnosed?
Diagnosing impotence is relatively easy as the doctor asks you about your symptoms and health history. Moreover, the doctor may carry out some tests to determine whether your symptoms are caused an underlying condition.
This involves physical examination where the doctor monitors your lungs and heart, examines your penis and testicles and checks your blood pressure.
Besides, the doctor may recommend a rectal exam to determine the condition of your prostate or blood or urine tests to make sure that the symptoms are not as a result of other conditions.
The major test for erectile dysfunction is the nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT) test. This is a test done using a battery-powered device that is attached to your thigh while you are sleeping.
The device helps in valuing and collecting the quality of nocturnal erections and keeps the data for your doctor to examine later. Nocturnal erections refer to erections that occur when you are sleeping, they give a clear sign of proper functioning penis, and therefore they are healthy.
The testosterone level might not be necessarily important to all men, but testosterone should gotten if there are signs and symptoms of low testosterone (hypogonadism). Some of the common laboratory tests that may be done while evaluating erectile dysfunction include:
- Blood Components
- Blood Glucose Levels
- Lipid Profile
- Serum Creatinine
- Hemoglobin AC Tests
- Testosterone Levels
Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) Levels
This approach of diagnosing can reveal the clues for physical erectile dysfunction. The process involves analysis of the genitals as part of the evaluation of erectile dysfunction.
Consequently, the doctor will examine your penis to determine if there are any plaques (hard areas) and ask you about penile curvature. The medical professional will also examine the testes to ensure that they are of normal sizes and are in the right location in the scrotum.
Remember lack of facial hair, small testicles, and enlarged breasts can suggest hormonal problems such as low testosterone levels or hypogonadism.
On the other hand, pulses in your feet or groin may also be examined to determine whether there is any sign of hardening of arteries, which could affect the arteries in your sexual organ.
These are rarely done in diagnosing of impotence. The tests include Ultrasound with Doppler imaging, which offers additional information blood circulation in the penis. This is important in the diagnosing of erectile dysfunction in patients with previous surgical history.
The test is usually done after a vasodilator (prostaglandin E) is injected into the upper chambers in the penis (corpora cavernosa), which is a chemical that causes arteries to open.
This helps in measuring the rate o blood circulation into the penis and in diagnosing of problems associated with veins compression.
In some cases, an angiogram (involves injecting arteries with a dye) may be performed in cases where vascular surgery may be important. This helps in taking images to determine areas where there is the narrowing of arteries.
What Are The Treatments For Impotence?
It is vital to understand that the treatment of erectile dysfunction depends on the underlying cause. Your condition might even require you to use a combination of treatments that include medications, therapy, and lifestyle changes.
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Common Medications for Impotence
In most cases, doctors may prescribe some medications that help in managing your impotence symptoms. This will require you to acquire the right medication that works for you, which means that you need the help of a professional.
However, it is important to understand that these medicines can have some side effects. Therefore, it is advisable to consult your doctor in case you experience serious or unpleasant side effects as he or she may recommend a different medication that works for you. Here are the common drugs prescribed to help in stimulating the flow of blood to your penis while treating impotence:
- Avanafil (Stendra)
- Alprostadil (Caverject)
- Vardenafil (Levitra)
- Testosterone (Androderm)
- Tadalafil (Cialis)