Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a problem that exists in many men. However very few are willing to acknowledge that they have a problem, even though it can cause immense personal distress and even shatter relationships. Much has been said by experts urging couples to seek help, especially since most cases of ED are treatable. Here, however, I would like to touch upon a less known aspect of erectile dysfunction—the fact that it is often one of the first signs of an underlying serious medical condition.
ED and heart problems
A large number of patients experience erectile dysfunction about two years before the onset of a heart attack. This is because the blood vessels in the heart and penis are similar, except that the ones in the penis are 1cm wide while those in the heart are 3cm. When arterial plaque buildup begins, it is the 1cm blood vessels that tend to get blocked first, affecting a man's ability to get or sustain an erection.
Today, erectile dysfunction is more prevalent than we would like to believe and even more worrying is its rising incidence amongst those below 50 years of age.
The diabetes link
In patients with undiagnosed diabetes, poor control of blood sugar damages nerves and blood vessels all through the body. People with diabetes usually have other associated clinical conditions such as being overweight or obese, or suffering from hypertension, or they could be smokers, all of which are risk factors on their own for sexual dysfunction.
ED is often the first apparent symptom of multiple sclerosis (MS), a condition that causes nerve damage and results in pain and impaired coordination. MS damages the signal system that runs along the nerves of the spinal cord, interrupting signals that the brain sends to the sexual organs. As a result, men with MS often experience erectile dysfunction or delayed ejaculation.
Today, erectile dysfunction is more prevalent than we would like to believe and even more worrying is its rising incidence amongst those below 50 years of age. I have observed the onset of andropause, or male menopause, in men as young as 30, when earlier this was more prevalent in the 40-45 years age bracket. A number of reasons are to blame for this, including stress, work pressure and leading an unhealthy lifestyle.
The point I want to make is this: if you do experience ED more often than you would consider normal, consult a medical professional at the earliest. The benefits of this timely intervention are twofold—the doctor will evaluate you and find the most suitable treatment option, and he or she can also investigate if your ED is a sign of another underlying medical condition.
Depending on the patient's age, lifestyle and medical history, treatment for erectile dysfunction varies and could consist of counselling, oral medication and intrapenile injections. In the event that these do not work, penile prosthetics are another option, successfully helping patients achieve and sustain an erection. Most problems affecting male sexual health are treatable, with higher success rates seen in recent years.
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