Erectile dysfunction is also known as impotency. It is defined as difficulty in attaining or maintaining an erection that is firm enough for satisfactory sexual activity. In many cases, it is caused due to serious underlying health conditions. It adversely affects self-confidence and interpersonal relationship. Therefore it is essential to know about it and get it treated at the earliest possible.
What are the signs and symptoms of erectile dysfunction?
The symptoms of erectile dysfunction are:-
- Difficulty getting an erection
- Trouble maintaining an erection
- Decreased sexual desire
What are the causes of erectile dysfunction?
Sexual arousal in men involves the brain, emotions, hormones, nerves, blood vessels and muscles.
‘Positron emission tomography’ scanning studies have shown activation of sexual arousal in the higher cortical centres, which then stimulate the hypothalamus.
These signals descend through the parasympathetic nervous system and then activate parasympathetic nerves present in the sacral region (S2 to S4). Following this ultimately, there is the release of the neurotransmitter nitric oxide from the endothelial cells and noncholinergic and nonadrenergic nerves.
This stimulates the penile smooth muscles and ultimately causes smooth muscle relaxation, an increase in arterial flow and venous occlusion which produces adequate firmness of the penis for sexual activity.
Causes for erectile dysfunction can be physical psychological or a combination of both. Some studies have suggested a strong relationship between erectile dysfunction and arterial disease. They indicate that endothelial dysfunction is the pathophysiologic mechanism that causes both cardiovascular disease and ED.
Other studies have suggested excessive cigarette smoking to be responsible for decreased nitric oxide production by the nerves and disruption of the smooth muscles. This then leads to an increased incidence of ED.
Other studies have linked oxidative stress caused by the metabolic syndrome to be responsible for the improper functioning of endothelial cells and ultimately erectile dysfunction.
Diabetes is associated with ED due to the microvascular diseases linked to diabetes which are thought to compound the neural and endothelial injuries resulting in ED.
Hypogonadism and hormone deficiency can cause ED. Many conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and opioid use as well as hormones such as gonadotropins and thyroid-stimulating hormones influence the metabolism or availability of testosterone.
Overall common physical causes of erectile dysfunction are:-
- Cardiac disease
- Atherosclerosis or clogged blood vessels
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol levels
- Metabolic syndrome involves high blood pressure, high insulin, and high cholesterol with excessive fat accumulated around the waist.
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Peyronie’s disease
- Excessive tobacco use
- Alcoholism and substance abuse
- Side effects of some medications
- Sleep issues
- Treatment for prostate cancer
- Low testosterone
- Injuries or surgeries of the spinal cord or pelvic area
Psychological causes of erectile dysfunction include the factors that interfere with sexual excitement such as:-
- Poor mental health
- Relationship problems
What are the complications that can arise from erectile dysfunction?
The complications that can result from untreated erectile dysfunction are:-
- Unsatisfactory sex life
- Embarrassment and associated low self-esteem
- Problems in relationships
- Inability to have a child
What steps can be taken to prevent erectile dysfunction?
There are certain steps which if followed properly can avoid the occurrence of erectile dysfunction. These are:-
- Proper treatment and management of underlying health conditions such as diabetes, heart diseases etc
- Maintain ideal weight as being overweight can cause or worsen this problem.
- Avoid excessive alcohol intake and substance abuse
- Quit smoking- If one is having a problem quitting one can try nicotine replacement options such as over-the-counter lozenges and gums which can be of help.
- Exercise regularly- According to some studies moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise can help in improving erectile dysfunction. Regular physical activity even if less strenuous is effective to lower the risk of erectile dysfunction.
- Practice mind relaxation techniques to reduce stress.
- Get professional help for the treatment of any mental health condition, stress, depression or anxiety if present.
- Work out relationship issues by measures such as couples counselling which can help to improve communication with one’s partner.
- Consume a diet low in red or processed meat and rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, and nuts.
- Get enough sleep and seek treatment if there is any sleep disorder such as obstructive sleep disorder.
How is erectile dysfunction diagnosed?
Generally, medical history and physical examination are sufficient to diagnose erectile dysfunction. Further investigations may be advised if some underlying condition is suspected to be responsible for erectile dysfunction. These tests include:-
- Physical examination of the testicles and penis for any abnormality. During this, the nerves for sensation are also examined
- Blood tests to detect heart disease, diabetes, low testosterone etc
- Urine test- Urine is examined to detect diabetes or other medical condition
- Ultrasound – It is done to check the blood flow to the penis. At times this test is done by injecting some medications into the penis to increase blood flow and cause an erection.
- Psychological examination- It is done to screen for anxiety, depression or any other likely mental cause of erectile dysfunction.
What is the treatment for erectile dysfunction?
It is quite common for men to suffer from erection-related problems every now and then. But if this occurs routinely such a state is not normal and requires treatment.
Changes in lifestyle, withdrawal of certain medicines, treatment of causative medical conditions and at times surgery are required to treat ED.
Homeopathy has a very important role to play in treating ED. Homeopathic medicines not only improve the symptoms of ED but also treat the underlying conditions causing ED.
Homeopathic medicines are safe and well prescribed homeopathic medicines don’t have any side effects. Also if the patient is on allopathic medications for any other problem e.g. nitrates to treat chest pain homeopathic medicines for ED can be safely prescribed without any risk of counteraction of drugs.
Also unlike conventional medicines homeopathy provides more permanent treatment for ED. The best homeopathic medicine for ED is constitutional medicine. For this, a trained homeopathic physician takes a detailed case history of the patient. He tries to elicit symptoms from both the mental and physical spheres for holistic treatment.
ED is a common sex-related problem in men. It refers to the inability to achieve and/or maintain an erection firm enough for coition. It can be caused due to both physical and psychological factors.
Physical causes of erectile dysfunction are cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes, certain neurological diseases, certain medications, treatment for prostate, sleep disorders, injury or surgery of the spine or pelvis as well as alcohol, tobacco and substance abuse.
Psychological causes of erectile dysfunction are anxiety, depression, stress, poor mental health and relationship problems. Some lifestyle changes help to deal with this problem. Maintaining ideal body weight, regular exercise, adequate sleep, a healthy diet, and avoiding tobacco, substance abuse and excessive alcohol intake are seen to be particularly helpful.
Treatment, homeopathy provides safe and effective treatment for ED. Homeopathic medicine not only helps to treat symptoms of ED but also removes the underlying cause whether physical or psychological which are amenable to treatment by medicine.
This provides more lasting results for this problem. If the patient is already on allopathic medications for any problem even then homeopathic medicine can be prescribed without any risk of counteraction between drugs. In some cases, additional counselling by a trained therapist may also be required.
ED adversely affects the self-confidence and interpersonal relationship of an individual. Therefore it is strongly advised to overcome any embarrassment and seek medical help to get it treated in time. Also if both the partners participate in the treatment plan then the treatment outcome is seen to be more promising.