Erectile Dysfunction - Overview, Causes Symptoms  And Treatment

Erectile dysfunction or male impotence is a sexual dysfunction characterized by the inability to develop or maintain an erection of the penis sufficient for satisfactory sexual performance.
An erection occurs as a hydraulic effect due to blood entering and being retained in sponge-like bodies within the penis. The process is most often initiated as a result of sexual arousal, when signals are transmitted from the brain to nerves in the pelvis. Erectile dysfunction is indicated when an erection is consistently difficult or impossible to produce, despite arousal. There are various and often multiple underlying causes, some of which are treatable medical conditions. The most important organic causes are cardiovascular disease and diabetes, neurological problems (for example, trauma from prostatectomy surgery), hormonal insufficiencies (hypogonadism) and drug side effects. It is important to realize that erectile dysfunction can signal underlying risk for cardiovascular disease.
There is often a contributing and complicating and sometimes a primary psychological or relational problem. Psychological impotence is where erection or penetration fails due to thoughts or feelings (psychological reasons) rather than physical impossibility; this can often be helped. Notably in psychological impotence, there is a strong response to placebo treatment. Erectile dysfunction, tied closely as it is to cultural notions of potency, success and masculinity, can have severe psychological consequences. There is a strong culture of silence and inability to discuss the matter. In reality, it has been estimated that around 1 in 10 men will experience recurring impotence problems at some point in their lives.
Besides treating the underlying causes and psychological consequences, the first line treatment of erectile dysfunction consists of a trial of PDE5 inhibitor drugs the first of which was sildenafil or Viagra . In some cases, treatment can involve prostaglandin tablets in the urethra, intracavernous injections with a fine needle into the penis that cause swelling, a penile prosthesis, a penis pump or vascular reconstructive surgery.

Overview And Symptoms of Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction is characterized by the regular or repeated inability to obtain or maintain an erection. There are several ways that erectile dysfunction is analyzed:
* Obtaining full erections at some times, such as when asleep (when the mind and psychological issues, if any, are less present), tends to suggest the physical structures are functionally working. However, the opposite case, a lack of nocturnal erections, does not imply the opposite, since a significant proportion of sexually functional men do not routinely get nocturnal erections or wet dreams.
* Obtaining erections which are neither rigid nor full (lazy erection), or are lost more rapidly than would be expected (often before or during penetration), can be a sign of a failure of the mechanism which keeps blood held in the penis, and may signify an underlying clinical condition, often cardiovascular in origin.
* Other factors leading to erectile dysfunction are diabetes mellitus (causing neuropathy) or hypogonadism (decreased testosterone levels due to disease affecting the testicles or the pituitary gland).

Causes Of Erectile Dysfunction

* Drugs (Anti-depressants (SSRIs) and Nicotine are most common. A study entitled Drug-induced male sexual dysfunction concluded that of the 12 most commonly prescribed medications on the market today, 8 of those medications list impotence as a side-effect of the drug. Other drugs such as alcohol, cocaine, and heroin negatively impact male sexual libido.)
* Neurogenic Disorders (spinal cord and brain injuries, nerve disorders such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, and stroke.
* Hormonal Disorders (pituitary gland tumor; low or abnormally high levels of the hormone testosterone).
* Arterial Disorders (peripheral vascular disease, hypertension; reduced blood flow to the penis).
* Venous leak
* Cavernosal Disorders (Peyronie's disease.
* Psychological causes: performance anxiety, stress, mental disorders (clinical depression, schizophrenia, substance abuse, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, personality disorders or traits.), psychological problems, negative feelings.
* Surgery (radiation therapy, surgery of the colon, prostate, bladder, or rectum may damage the nerves and blood vessels involved in erection. Prostate and bladder cancer surgery often require removing tissue and nerves surrounding a tumor, which increases the risk for impotence.
* Lifestyle: alcohol and drugs, obesity, cigarette smoking (Incidence of impotence is approximately 85 percent higher in male smokers compared to non-smokers ., Smoking is a key cause of erectile dysfunction. Smoking causes impotence because it promotes arterial narrowing.

Treatment For Erectile Dysfunction

Treatment depends on the cause. Testosterone supplements may be used for cases due to hormonal deficiency. However, the cause is more usually lack of adequate penile blood supply as a result of damage to inner walls of blood vessels. This damage is more frequent in older men, and often associated with disease, in particular diabetes. Treatments (with the exception of testosterone supplementation, where effective) work on a temporary basis: they enable an erection to be attained and maintained long enough for intercourse, but do not permanently improve the underlying condition. ED can in many cases be treated by drugs taken orally, injected, or as penile suppositories.
These drugs increase the efficacy of nitrous oxide, which dilates the blood vessels of corpora cavernosa. When oral drugs or suppositories fail, injections into the erectile tissue of the penile shaft are extremely effective but occasionally cause priapism. Exercise, particularly aerobic exercise is an effective cheap treatment for erectile dysfunction.
When pharmacological methods fail, a purpose-designed external vacuum pump can be used to attain erection, with a separate compression ring fitted to the penis to maintain it. These pumps should be distinguished from other penis pumps (supplied without compression rings) which, rather than being used for temporary treatment of impotence, are claimed to increase penis length if used frequently, or vibrate as an aid to masturbation. More drastically, inflatable or rigid penile implants may be fitted surgically. Implants are irreversible and costly. All these mechanical methods are based on simple principles of hydraulics and mechanics and are quite reliable, but have their disadvantages. In a few cases there is a vascular problem which can be treated surgically.
Oral Treatment:
The cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterases constitute a group of enzymes that catalyse the hydrolysis of the cyclic nucleotides cyclic AMP and cyclic GMP. They exist in different molecular forms and are unevenly distributed throughout the body. One of the forms of phophodiesterase is termed PDE5. The prescription PDE5 inhibitors Sildenafil ( Viagra, Kamagra and Megalis ), Vardenafil ( Levitra ) and Tadalafil ( Cialis ) are prescription drugs which are taken orally. They work by blocking the action of PDE5, which causes cGMP to degrade. CGMP specific phosphodiesterase type 5 causes the smooth muscle of the arteries in the penis to relax, allowing the corpus cavernosum to fill with blood. These medications work when there is sexual stimulation. Depending on the treatment, it will need to be taken 20 minutes to 1 hour before sex and the period of time over which it works can vary between 3 hours and up to 36 hours.



Considerable portions of the text here is from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erectile_dysfunction and is reproduced here under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License