04 Mar Causes and Management of Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction is a condition that affects men where there is the inability to achieve and/or maintain a firm enough erection for sex. A lot of men may struggle with mild forms of erectile dysfunction at some time in their lives and this is usually a self-limiting issue as the problem may be caused by stress triggers which can be addressed and resolved.
However, if erectile dysfunction in an ongoing problem it can cause increased stress and anxiety for the affected individual and their sex partner leading to relationship problems and it can affect one’s self-confidence. Therefore, men who complain of persistent erection issues should consult with their primary care physicians so that they can be examined and investigated to rule out any underlying causes of the problem.
Certain conditions and factors can interfere with the feeling of sexual excitement which is a trigger for the development of an erection. These issues can also cause a stress response by the body resulting in the release of hormones such as epinephrine which constricts blood vessels and this makes it difficult to physically get an erection as blood flow to the genitals is compromised. These conditions and factors include:
- Emotional and physical stressors.
- Mental health conditions such as major depression and generalized anxiety.
- Relationship issues due to the mentioned problems resulting in a vicious cycle.
Physical conditions and lifestyle habits may lead to erectile dysfunction and these may include direct problems involving the genitalia or indirect issues which affect the blood flow and nerve supply to the penis. These include:
- Heart disease.
- Atherosclerotic (blocked) arteries.
- High blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels.
- Diabetes which causes damage and narrowing of blood vessels.
- Peyronie’s disease which is the development of scar tissue inside the penis.
- Tobacco use.
- Alcohol and drug abuse.
- Certain medications such as beta blockers.
- Sleep disorders.
- Nerve damage as a result of surgery or injury in the pelvic area or spinal cord.
Conservative measures to help manage erectile dysfunction focus on reversing the causes of the problem and include:
- Addressing psychological and physical stressors. This may include incorporating relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises to help reduce feelings of anxiety and stress as well as consulting with a psychologist to help discuss ways to address stressful situations.
- Reversing lifestyle habits such as stopping smoking and the use of any illicit drugs, reducing alcohol intake, and incorporating dietary changes and an exercise routine to help address obesity and to help better control chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
- Medications such as sildenafil, tadalafil, vardenafil, and avanafil may be used to help achieve adequate erections.
A new therapy that has been shown to be quite effective in managing erectile dysfunction is the administration of autologous stem cells in the cavernous tissue of the penis.
The stem cell therapy has the following steps:
- A small amount of adipose (fat) tissue is taken from the affected individual through liposuction.
- Stem cells are derived from the fat through specific procedures.
- The stem cells are then sent to the physician who administers the product in the cavernous tissue of the penis.
These stem cells not only replace damaged tissue cells which help to produce nitric oxide in the blood vessels so that they can dilate properly and improve blood flow to the penis, but they also stimulate anti-inflammatory hormones in the body that help to reduce inflammatory processes that may be indirectly causing erectile dysfunction.