Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, is categorized as an inability to get and keep an erection that is firm enough for sex. If these symptoms happen occasionally, it’s not typically something to be concerned about but if it’s occurring frequently, it could be a sign of a more serious underlying medical issue such as a heart condition.
Erectile Dysfunction Symptoms
Erectile dysfunction does not just occur in the elderly population. Studies show ED affects 26% of men under the age 40 and by age 50 affects nearly 50% of men. (While statistics do not usually include the gender-diverse population, this article and the information provided here is for all genders.)
If you are experiencing erectile dysfunction, you are not alone! It is important to understand that statistics available most often include cisgender men, however, can affect anyone with a penis/phallus. Erectile dysfunction symptoms include:
- Low sexual desire
- Trouble getting an erection
- Trouble keeping an erection
Causes of Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction symptoms can occur for a variety of reasons including but not limited to:
- Vascular causes: diseases that affect the heart and/or arteries that compromise blood flow to the penis
- Neurological causes: damage to the nerves that send signals to the penis
- Psychological causes: anxiety, depression, and other mental health factors
- Trauma, or an injury to the area
- Chronic illnesses: such as kidney disease
- Medications: certain medications such as antidepressants or blood pressure medication
- Surgery: having a surgical procedure on or near the prostate, bladder or colon
Diagnosing Erectile Dysfunction
The great news is that erectile dysfunction can be diagnosed through a variety of simple tests at your doctor’s office. Most often, ED can be diagnosed through a thorough verbal medical history and physical examination. More assessments may be necessary if your provider feels you have an underlying condition or chronic illness contributing to your problem. Here are some common tests you should be prepared for:
- Blood test
- Urine Test
Treatment Options for Erectile Dysfunction
Once the root cause is identified, your provider will outline a treatment plan. This will determine what course of action you take. In general, exercise and living a healthy lifestyle through dietary changes and a nutrition plan can improve ED. Your providers will help you decide what’s best for you. Options may include:
- Oral medication
- Urethral suppositories
- Penis pumps
- Penile implants
- Alternative medicine
- Psychological counseling, in some cases with a sex therapist
- Surgery is available for serious cases after proper medical treatment and a doctor’s recommendation
As a physical therapist, I have many ways to help individuals suffering from ED. Let’s take a look at two simple tools… exercise and penis pumps!
Exercises to help with Erectile Dysfunction
When it comes to ED, it’s not all about kegels or pelvic floor muscle strengthening. Your pelvic floor consists of 26 muscles with slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers. Think of it as marathon runners and sprinters. For a proper erection, you need both of those working. For the best results, contract your pelvic muscles while also breathing and having an erection. It’s not as hard as it sounds! I have create a list of three simple exercises to help you improve your ED symptoms today. Check it out!
Penis Pumps to help with Erectile Dysfunction
There are a lot of penis pumps on the market but they are not all created equally. An effective penis pump has a vacuum limiter so the pressure does not get too high and injure your penis. Once your manual or battery powered pump has sucked out all the air and achieved an erection, you will place a tension ring on the base of your penis to help maintain the erection. While using a penis pump some bruising may occur and your penis may feel cool to the touch. Take a look at my recommended options below.
Erectile dysfunction is not a death sentence to your sex life nor something to be ashamed about. Many individuals experience ED and therefore there are many treatment options and medical professionals available to help.
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