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Few men want to talk about their inability to get or maintain an erection, however, erectile dysfunction can have a profound impact on relationships and self-esteem. Fortunately, trouble in the bedroom doesn't necessarily mean you're dealing with erectile dysfunction. Most men will have problems with an erection at some point in their sexual history. But one bad day in the bedroom doesn't mean major sexual health problems. So how can you know if you're dealing with erectile dysfunction?
Signs of erectile dysfunction
Your ability to become aroused is a complicated process. Your emotions, brain, hormones, nerves, blood vessels, and muscles all play an intricate part in male arousal. When any of these pieces aren't in line, it can cause some kind of dysfunction.
It's also important to remember that your mental health plays as much a part of your sexual ability as your physical health. Stress and other mental health concerns can cause or make erectile dysfunction worse. Minor health problems may slow your sexual response, but the accompanying anxiety that comes with the slow sexual response can shut things down entirely.
Occasional, or intermittent, sexual problems don't necessarily point to erectile dysfunction. But you may be dealing with erectile dysfunction when the following symptoms are persistent:
- Reduced desire for sex
- Inability to maintain an erection
- Inability to get an erection
Who's at risk for erectile dysfunction?
You may be at a greater risk for erectile dysfunction if you:
- Are getting older
- Have a psychological condition like anxiety, depression, or stress
- Suffer from medical conditions such as a heart disease or diabetes
- Use tobacco
- Use drugs and alcohol
- Are overweight
- Are undergoing medical treatment such as radiation treatment for cancer
- Are taking medications such as antihistamines, high blood pressure medications, or antidepressants
- Have an injury that might damage the nerves or arteries that contribute to erections
Can I prevent erectile dysfunction?
Although it might not be possible to always prevent erectile dysfunction, taking care of yourself can help you avoid persistent problems. In general, the healthier you are, the less likely you'll be to have erectile dysfunction. Doing the following can help:
- Reduce your stress
- Manage health conditions like diabetes and heart disease with the help of your doctor
- Manage your mental health
- Exercise consistently
- Stop smoking, don't use recreational drugs, and limit alcohol use
Treating erectile dysfunction
There's no one-size-fits-all treatment for erectile dysfunction. Its causes vary, which means you may need to develop a multi-pronged approach to your treatment plan. Work with your doctor to come up with the best treatment for you. Possible treatments include:
- Lifestyle modifications. Lose weight, exercise regularly, manage your medical conditions, stop smoking, and avoid alcohol and illicit drugs.
- Counseling. Seek treatment for anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns. If you're having relationship difficulties, consider couples counseling.
- Prescription medications. If needed, your doctor may prescribe oral medications such as Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, and Stendra (ask your pharmacist if there's a generic available, as it will cost much less). Discuss any concerns or health conditions you have with your doctor before taking medications for erectile dysfunction.
- Other medications such as an Alprostadil self-injection, Alprostadil urethral suppository, or testosterone replacement may also be prescribed by your doctor.
- Physical treatments like a penis pump or penile implants don't require medications. However, penile implants are generally not considered until other more conservative treatments have failed.
If you suffer from erectile dysfunction, there's help. Discuss your symptoms and concerns with your doctor to help figure out the cause of your erectile dysfunction. Then work toward treatment options that will get you feeling back to your old self again.