What is erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient to have sex. Erection problems can be experienced in different ways.
- Don’t get an erection at all
- Get an erection that isn’t hard enough for sex
- Get an erection but can’t keep it long enough for sex
For some men with ED, it’s difficult to get or keep an erection every time they try to have sex. For others, ED can happen every once in a while.
There’s no reason to be embarrassed or ashamed about ED – it can be a part of life, and the good news is that treatments for erectile dysfunction can be successful in the majority of cases.
Erection problems can put a strain on relationships. They can also be a warning sign of a health condition or disease the man might not be aware of. That’s why it’s important to take action and find a solution for your EDs.
What causes erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction is caused by reduced blood flow to the penis. A number of factors can cause this reduced blood flow. Some are physical, while others have more to do with mental wellness or because someone is taking certain medications.
It’s important to know erection problems can happen to any man at any age. In fact ED is remarkably common in younger men. By the age of 40, 4 in every 10 men may have some experience of ED. Many of these men identify the stress of their professional and personal lives as a factor in their ED.
Overall physical health has an important part to play in the ability to get and keep erections hard enough for sex. After all, a healthy blood flow to the penis is what’s needed most for an erection.
There are many different physical conditions and diseases that can negatively affect the blood vessels, muscles and nerves and make it more difficult to get an erection.
Approximately 90% of men with ED have an underlying condition e.g.
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
Because certain conditions can lead to ED, erectile dysfunction can sometimes be an early warning sign of these conditions - this is another reason not to ignore ED!
Poor mental wellness and psychological factors can play a role in erection problems by interfering with how the brain signals a physical response – in this case, an erection. ED caused by psychological triggers should be taken just as seriously as those caused by anything else.
Some of the psychological issues that can contribute to erection problems include:
- Low self-esteem
- Performance anxiety
- Relationship problems
For anyone experiencing these issues, consider the following options:
- Exercise: It’s great for both physical and mental health.
- Mindfulness: Pay more attention to thoughts and feelings.
- Talk about it: Counselling with a trained therapist can help with many aspects of mental wellness.
Lifestyle choices and erection problems
The stress of daily life can result in behaviours that can contribute to ED. These include:
- Eating badly and drinking too much
- Recreational drug use
Some common medicines can lead to ED. These include some blood pressure medicines, diuretics, some anti-epileptic medicines and some anti-depressant medicines.
There are various other medicines which can also cause ED. A Pharmacist or GP can help identify any medications that could be causing problems.
Never stop taking any prescribed medication without consulting with your GP or Pharmacist first.
Medication for ED
Phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5) inhibitors are one of the most widely used and effective types of medication for treating ED. They work by helping the muscles in the penis to relax so that blood flows in more easily, allowing an erection to be achieved when the man is sexually stimulated.
Depending on the type of PDE-5 inhibitor you are taking and the dose, it should take about 30-60 minutes before it starts to work.
This type of medication is not suitable for everyone. Your Pharmacist or GP will need to check what medication you are taking, and any medical conditions you have, before recommending this type of medication.
Available without a Prescription
Since Jan 2021, Viagra Connect®* (which contains 50mg sildenafil) is available from pharmacies without a prescription. A consultation with the pharmacist will be necessary prior to supply. Hickey’s Pharmacies facilitate customers to begin this consultation online. Click here to find out more information on Viagra Connect® and to begin the consultation.
In addition to oral medication other prescribed treatments include medications inserted through the tip of the penis and injections into the penis.
- Psychosexual counselling
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
- Vacuum penis pump (Men should not use a vacuum pump if they have a bleeding disorder or are taking anticoagulant medicines, which reduce the ability of the blood to clot. Not all pumps are the same. A doctor may recommend or prescribe a specific model. That way you can be sure it suits your needs and that it’s made by a reputable manufacturer)
The bottom line is that ED affects lots of men and can be distressing for both the men involved and their partners. Don’t ignore ED. If you are experiencing erectile dysfunction talk to your Pharmacist or GP today.
*Talk to your pharmacist and always read the label.