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March 10, 2019

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What is Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence is a complex sexual condition in men that can cause psychological problems, anxiety, low self-confidence and relationship issues. National Institute of Health (NIH) defined Erectile dysfunction (ED) as an inability to attain or maintain sufficient erection of penis during intercourse. Duration of ED can remain for few weeks to months or it can be an ongoing disorder. In some cases onset of ED is due to underlying causes which can be life-threatening also. Significant population of men find it difficult to discuss this condition with their physician. However males should open up on this issue and seek consultation from doctor. Usually ED is treatable, merely by an intake of an oral medication before intercourse.

What causes ED?

When you feel or see something sexually arousing your brain releases signal known as neurotransmitters from cavernous nerve terminals. These neurotransmitters influences the release of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) . cGMP causes rushing of blood into corpa cavernosa (2 parallel sponge like tubes running parallel to penis). Rapid filling up of corpora cavernosa with blood makes arteries of penis to dilate. Like hydraulic effect, sudden and rapid influx of blood causes the penis to swell and erect. As the corpa cavernosa dilates, presses against veins that carry blood away from the penis, effectively blocking them; so the penis stays erect for a while.

The paramount causes of ED are low sex drive (libido), insufficient blood flow to the penis, and neurological complications (nerves or brain damage). In patient with ED, the problem mostly lies in the blood flow to the corpa cavernosa due to various underlying causes like cardiovascular disorders, injury in penis etc. In some cases erection is not possible due to low sex drive or hormonal imbalance.

Physical and anatomical factors responsible for ED are as follows:

  • Physical abnormality in the structure of penis
  • Hormonal abnormalities (high production of thyroid, low production of testosterone, cushing syndrome). Any injury to pituitary gland can also lead to its underactivity resulting in hormonal imbalance.
  • Sedentary lifestyle, obesity, smoking, alcoholism and substance abuse
  • Physiological factors (like stress, anxiety, mental disorder)
  • Metabolic disorders like diabetes can severely affects nerves and blood vessels
  • Drugs like anti-depressants, narcotics, tranquilizer affects blood flow or can cause low libido
  • Old age: Usually libido reduces with advancing age
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Prostate or bladder surgery may cause damage to nerve endings and arteries of penis
  • Hypertension, dylipidemia, atherosclerosis Injuries in lower abdomen region