Men who suffer from the symptoms of erectile dysfunction often face this burden alone. Even though erectile dysfunction affects more than 30 million men in the United States alone, this condition is often a source of shame and embarrassment, affecting both the mental health and interpersonal relationships of anyone struggling with this condition.
To make matters worse, improper management and treatment of erectile dysfunction can compound the severity of this condition over time. Stress, anxiety and other emotional responses to ED can further complicate or intensify a person’s inability to produce an erection, while unaddressed physical health issues can progress and make episodes of ED even more frequent and intense.
If you have already experienced the signs of ED, you’re probably looking for answers to questions about the cause of this condition and possible treatments to restore your ability to produce and maintain an erection. Read on for answers to those common questions, and educate yourself on the next steps required to make erectile dysfunction a problem of the past.
Erectile Dysfunction Symptoms
While the main symptoms of ED are often clear, it can be helpful to understand all of the ways erectile dysfunction might manifest itself in an individual. The ability to recognize the full range of symptoms for this condition may also improve your ability to understand the severity of your condition, which might expedite your decision to seek out help.
The common symptoms of erectile dysfunction include:
- Difficulty producing an erection, even when aroused.
- Difficulty maintaining and erection.
- The inability to produce an erection firm enough for sex.
- A lower sex drive.
Erectile Dysfunction Causes
The causes of ED can be complex due to the number of potential causes, as well as the likelihood that multiple contributing factors are responsible for any given case of erectile dysfunction. If you’re experiencing symptoms of ED, you can evaluate your own physical condition and medical history to determine if you might be subject to any of the following causes:
- Cardiovascular issues. There is a direct link between erectile dysfunction and high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, and other ailments of the cardiovascular system.
- Obesity. Being overweight can increase your risk of ED.
- The use of certain medications. Some men develop erectile dysfunction from medication they’re taking. Antihistamines, antidepressants and other medications may report erectile dysfunction as a possible side effect.
- Diabetes and other chronic conditions. Erectile dysfunction and diabetes may go hand-in-hand in some men. The same is true for other chronic illnesses, such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
- Prostate gland issues. Cancer, enlarged prostates, and/or treatment for prostate conditions can all be a cause of ED.
- Stress. High levels of stress can affect your ability to produce an erection.
- Anxiety and/or depression. Mental health can have a pronounced effect on sexual performance, including the ability to get an erection.
- Low testosterone. In some men, ED is a sign that testosterone levels are dropping, which could be caused by many different factors.
Is There a Link Between Erectile Dysfunction and Depression?
Unfortunately, erectile dysfunction and depression can be a contributing cause to one another. In some men, erectile dysfunction itself can be a source of shame that causes or intensifies their experience of depression. In other men, the effects of depression can inhibit proper sexual health functioning—and antidepressants may not make things any easier, due to their reputation as a potential cause of ED.
If you’re suffering from both ED and depression, a sexual health specialist—as well as a therapist—may be able to offer guidance in managing each of these conditions to limit their impact on one another.
Treatment Options for Erectile Dysfunction
Even in cases where men are suffering from severe erectile dysfunction, there’s good news: a number of treatments and interventions, including innovative, evidence-based therapy programs, have successfully treated erectile dysfunction in millions of men.
While some men have found success managing erectile dysfunction through the use of medications, other noninvasive, drug-free therapies can help alleviate ED by restoring the proper functioning of your vascular system. Low- intensity shockwave therapy has been praised as a “revolutionary treatment” for erectile dysfunction, with a number of reputable studies finding that the pain-free treatment program “significantly improves erectile function” in ED patients receiving this treatment.
The success of low-intensity shockwave therapy has been so pronounced that it is replacing other treatments and therapies for many patients with ED. More than 80 percent of ED patients receiving this treatment eventually stopped taking their ED medications entirely, while more than 90 percent of treatment recipients said they would recommend this intervention to other men.
Although the stigmas around erectile dysfunction can be difficult to face and ignore when considering treatment, it’s important to remember that erectile dysfunction is not a life sentence. A men’s sexual health specialist can help evaluate and understand the causes of your erectile dysfunction, and lay out a treatment plan to reclaim your sexual health and ability to perform.