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The (Too) Fast Lane

Breaking the Pattern

WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

The party was winding down, so Bill and Ann -- who had begun to date recently -- decided to go back to her place. "He was shy and totally self-conscious," says Ann about Bill (not their real names). "But he was a great kisser."

One great kiss led to another, and soon they were in bed. In a matter of minutes, it was over. Way too soon.

"He was so quick," Ann recalls. "And so embarrassed. He looked like a little boy who had broken his mother's favorite dish. He kept saying, 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry.'" And then he cried.

Millions of men likely can relate -- although they're not usually eager to say so. Premature ejaculation is the most common male sexual problem, studies suggest. In a survey published in 1999 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 21% of the 1,410 men (ages 18 to 59) who responded said they had premature ejaculation. (In comparison, only 5% reported an inability to get or maintain an erection, and another 5% reported low desire.) Other studies have put the percent of men with premature ejaculation as high as 75%.

Every man will probably experience premature ejaculation at least once, says Jon L. Pryor, MD, associate professor of urology at the University of Minnesota Medical School and a veteran researcher in the field who recently published a report on the problem in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. Despite the frequency with which it occurs, the problem is relatively overlooked, Pryor says, especially in comparison to erectile dysfunction (ED), which has been intensely researched (and widely discussed, thanks partly to former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, who appeared in commercials touting drug treatment for that problem.) "There's no drug specifically for premature ejaculation," Pryor notes. "You'd think the pharmaceutical companies would pursue this."

But recently, premature ejaculation has gotten more attention, with Pryor and others zeroing in on what tends to cause the problem and testing various treatments. While legitimate researchers like Pryor don't promise a guy he can go on and on indefinitely, they are discovering that if tailored to the cause, various options can at least improve his sex life. But premature ejaculation is not always simple to treat, says Pryor's co-author, Michael E. Metz, a St. Paul, Minn., psychologist.

The Definition Dilemma

The issue of premature ejaculation can be frustrating for researchers not only because of the havoc it can wreak on relationships but also because the medical community hasn't come to agree on the definition. "Some researchers define it by the number of thrusts [after penetration]," Pryor says. Most often mentioned is about 8 to 15.

Pryor prefers the definition he and Metz cite in their review, calling premature ejaculation "the inadvertent and unsatisfying rapid speed of male ejaculation."

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