What is Erectile Dysfunction (ED)?

Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, is the persistent or consistent inability to sustain or maintain an erection.

ED can vary in terms of the degree and the severity of the condition. Most men occasionally fail to get or keep an erection. This is usually caused by stress, tiredness, anxiety or drinking too much alcohol, and it’s nothing to worry about. If it happens more often, it may be caused by physical health or emotional problems.The occasional inability to achieve a satisfactory erection doesn’t normally constitute a problem.

What’s the difference between erectile dysfunction and impotence?

In general, these terms are interchangeable. erectile dysfunction usually describes a variation in the ability to maintain or sustain an erection. The term Impotence, tends to be used in instances where there is a complete inability to have an erection. Medically however, these terms are both used to describe the same symptoms.

What is Erectile DysfunctionWhat are the most common causes of erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction can be caused by physical factors or can also be psychologically related. In terms of physical causes, cardiovascular conditions such as hypertension (elevated blood pressure), atherosclerosis, high cholesterol and heart disease in general can cause disruption of blood flow to the penis. Diabetes is also a known cause as the disease can affect and damage nerves and blood vessels impacting on blood flow to the penis.

Does Erectile Dysfunction only affect older men?

In summary, the answer is ‘no’. Older men may need more stimulation (such as stroking and touching) to achieve an erection, however ED is now known to also affect younger men. Erectile dysfunction can be caused by both physical and psychological conditions; these can affect men of all ages.

What medications are known to help with ED?

The four well known oral medications are as follows:

  • Sildenafil (Viagra)
  • Tadalafil (Cialis)
  • Vardenafil (Levitra)
  • Avanafil (Spedra)

The listed medications increase the effects of nitric oxide which is a natural chemical produced by the body which relaxes the muscles in the penis. This subsequently increases blood flow and allows for an erection to form in response to sexual stimulation. The medication listed above do not automatically cause an erection; sexual stimulation is needed to allow for the release of nitric oxide for the medications to amplify its effect.

Can ED be prevented?

Various lifestyle activities can be implemented to help reduce ED. Examples include, having a healthy lifestyle, exercising, eating the right foods, stopping smoking and reducing consumption of alcohol. For those with certain conditions such as Diabetes, implementing the above strategies and ensuring blood sugar is controlled also contributes to reducing the prevalence of Erectile dysfunction. If you have any concerns then it is advisable to get help by visiting you GP to discuss the problem. If the root cause is psychologically related then counselling might be an option to pursue.

What are the differences in oral medication available for ED?

Sildenafil tablets (generic Viagra) was the first erectile PDE5 inhibitor medicine brought to market. It is available in 25mg, 50mg and 100mg. It is commonly referred to as the “blue pill” but comes in various different colours depending on the manufacturer.

  • Lasts for up to 4 hours
  • Taken about 30-60 minutes before sexual activity
  • Onset of activity may be delayed with food.
  • Sexual stimulation is required for the tablets to work.

Tadalafil tablets (generic Cialis) are available in 10mg and 20mg for use on-demand. It is commonly referred to as the “weekend pill” since it has a much longer duration of action compared to other erectile dysfunction medications. This does not mean you will have an erection for up to 36 hours but that you will be ready for sex without another dose for up to 36 hours. There is also a daily 2.5mg and 5mg tablet which is designed for those who always want to be ready for sex.

  • Lasts for up to 36 hours
  • Taken at least 30 minutes before sexual activity
  • Can be taken with or without food
  • Sexual stimulation is required for the tablets to work.

Vardenafil tablets (generic Levitra) like Viagra, works within just over half an hour. The effects last for about 5 hours (an hour longer than Sildenafil/Viagra). Starting dose for most men is 10 mg a day, but men over 65 often start on the 5 mg pill.

  • Lasts for up to 5 hours
  • Taken about 25 – 60 minutes before sexual activity
  • Onset of activity may be delayed with a high fat meal
  • Sexual stimulation is required for the tablets to work.

Are there other ways in which I can help myself?

There are many ways in which you can take the emphasis away from erectile dysfunction specifically. Although intercourse is enjoyable and important, consider developing other forms of sexual intimacy which can still prove to be extremely pleasurable and help ignite or maintain the ‘spark’ in your relationship.

Do not be afraid to seek help and advice if you feel ED is affecting your mental or physical health. Talking to the right person (someone you feel comfortable with or with a healthcare professional) will help you decide how best to approach the situation.

Do not buy supplements or ‘aphrodisiacs’ through unwarranted websites, especially those preparations with unsubstantiated claims.

Do not blame yourself or your partner for your ED. It’s a health problem and should be treated as such. It’s not a problem to be ashamed of.


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