Doctor's Appointment | Never self-treat erectile dysfunction
Males face a number of medical issues, but none has proven to be as difficult to deal with as erectile dysfunction (ED). Dr Belinda Morrison, consultant urologist and lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus, describes this growing problem as the recurrent or persistent inability for a man to achieve or maintain an erection for the successful navigation of sexual activities.
For this week's appointment, we explore ED, the risk factors that contribute to the problem and useful interventions.
Despite a lack of statistics to show the extent to which Jamaican men are affected, Dr Morrison noted that based on the inflow of patients she received, it appears to be very common. At the core of erectile dysfunction is a disruption or change in regular blood flow patterns.
Causes may be psychogenic or organic. A psychogenic cause is not physical or the result of a medical condition. It may be the result of a strained relationship or prolonged exposure to stressful situations. Meanwhile, organic causes indicate physical and pre-existing medical conditions that affect this blood flow. It means, therefore, that though it manifests in the penis, it is a problem that starts somewhere else.
While there are many risk factors for ED, including lifestyle choices, age is a primary. Data from the Massachusetts Male Aging study, which is used as a guideline, has concluded that 52 per cent of men between the ages of 40 and 70 years are affected.
The older a man gets, the more likely it is that he will begin to experience less frequent erections, including nocturnal penile tumescence (morning erections) or erections that are not as firm as they used to be. In some cases, erections disappear altogether.
Additionally, a 2014-2015 local cross-sectional survey on men with diabetes showed that more than 80 per cent of that demographic battled ED.
Other risk factors for ED include:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- High cholesterol
- Hardened arteries (atherosclerosis)
- Conditions affecting the flow of blood to your penis (vasculogenic)
- Conditions affecting nervous system, which involves the brain, nerves and spinal cord (neurogenic)
- Conditions affecting hormone levels (hormonal)
- Conditions affecting the physical structure of your penis (anatomical)
- Stress, depression
- Sedentary lifestyle (lack of exercise)
- Some medication (diuretics, antihistamines, antidepressants, etc.)
CAN BE TREATED
Erectile dysfunction may be treated. Once it is observed that erections are not the same for an extended period, visit a urologist to discuss the spectrum of treatment options, including counselling, sex therapy and medication. In worst-case scenarios, surgery may be necessary.
To this end, Dr Morrison warned that taking medication without having undergone tests for underlying issues may do more harm than good. Self-treatment with bush remedies and drugs on the black market is risky and can be life-threatening.
Rev Dr Carla Dunbar - marriage, family and sex counselling therapist - who was also a special guest on the programme, spoke to the negative psychological effects of ED on men.
While discussing how dealing with ED could also pose challenges to a relationship, Rev Dunbar called for wives to be supportive as they navigate this health issue with their spouses. Dunbar additionally stressed the need for creativity, while offering hope to couples.
"There can be different levels of satisfaction and fulfilment when couples are open, honest and willing to explore mutually satisfying sexual techniques," she advised.
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