Erectile dysfunction (ED), sometimes referred to as impotence, is the inability of a man to achieve or maintain an erection hard enough for sexual intercourse. Millions of men in the U.S. have erectile dysfunction. It may be caused by diseases, complications from surgery, side effects of certain medications, lifestyle factors, and psychological factors.
Erectile dysfunction can be treated at any age. Treatment depends on your overall health and the underlying cause of the problem. If erectile dysfunction is a problem for you, talk to your doctor. Significant strides have been made in the last decade for treating erectile dysfunction. There are a number of therapies to choose from today. Your doctor can help you choose the best and safest one.
In some cases, simple lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, drinking less alcohol, or quitting smoking, may improve erectile dysfunction.
If the erectile dysfunction is caused by a certain medication, your doctor may suggest reducing the dose or trying an alternative drug. Certain blood pressure medications, allergy drugs, antidepressants, sedatives, appetite suppressants, and an ulcer drug called cimetidine may make it hard for a man to get a firm erection.
Most men with erectile dysfunction, however, will need further treatment. Treatment options for erectile dysfunction include:
Talk therapy may be the initial treatment option for men with anxiety or stress-related erectile dysfunction. Relationship difficulties, work problems, financial woes, and other, everyday stressors can trigger erectile dysfunction. Talking about worries and stressors to a licensed therapist can ease sexual anxiety and provide strategies to boost intimacy. Usually only three to four sessions are needed. Including your partner in therapy can also be helpful.
Medications for Erectile Dysfunction
Men have different options in the types of drugs for ED. Medicines can be taken orally, inserted into the urethra, or injected into the penis.
The first medications usually prescribed to men with erectile dysfunction are called phosphodiesterase (PDE) type 5 inhibitors. These include:
They are generally taken by mouth about one hour before having sex and should not be used more than once a day. One medication, Cialis, may be taken up to 36 hours before sexual activity. Staxyn dissolves in the mouth, but the other medications are swallowed.
PDE-5 inhibitors relax smooth muscles in the penis, which increases blood flow to the area, helping the penis become erect during sexual activity. About 80% of men who take PDE-5 inhibitors have firmer and longer-lasting erections. However, if your erection lasts more than four hours, seek emergency medical help.
Side effects of PDE-5 inhibitors are usually mild but may include headache, stuffy nose, flushing, muscle aches, and rarely, a temporary blue-green shading of your vision.
You should not take PDE-5 inhibitors if you take nitrate drugs, such as nitroglycerin tablets for heart disease. Doing so can cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure. Men taking alpha-blockers for prostate problems or blood pressure should also be cautioned. Always make sure your doctor knows about all the medications you are taking, including over-the-counter drugs, herbs, and supplements.