Erectile Dysfunction
Banana skin on floor

Almost every man suffers from the inability to get or maintain an erection at some point in their life.

It could be because you’re tired, nervous, have had a little too much alcohol or you’re simply just not in the mood! Don’t worry, it will likely pass.

However, sometimes it can become a persistent problem. If so, it’s very common and there are a number of ways to tackle it.

Erectile disfunction is also known as impotence. It’s most common in men over 40 but affects men of every age. Young or sexually inexperienced men in particular can feel the pressure to perform with new partners.

An important thing to remember is that it is not unusual. As such, your sexual partners may have experienced it before and will likely be much more understanding than you might initially think.

The most common causes are temporary, such as being stressed, anxious or run-down. However, if not resolved, they can turn into a longer-term issue or there can be other underlying causes.

Sexual health clinics and services like ours can help you identify the problem and create a solution so it is no longer something you need worry about.

Causes

Beyond simply being nervous or stressed, there are a number of other common causes:

  1. The blood vessels in your penis can become too narrow. The penis becomes erect by filling with blood. If the blood vessels change, this can be physically harder to achieve.
  2. A change in hormone levels – particularly a reduction in the male hormone testosterone – can have a number of side effects including a loss of sex drive (libido) and the inability to get an erection
  3. Erectile dysfunction is a common side effect in some people from certain medications, particularly anti-depressants 
  4. Excess alcohol and certain recreational drugs can also make gaining and maintaining an erection difficult

Treatment

If a narrowing of the blood vessels is the cause, you may be prescribed medication to help lower your blood pressure or reduce your cholesterol (a fatty substance which can block blood vessels). Losing weight or stopping smoking can also help.

An imbalance in your hormones can usually be spotted through a blood test and supplementary hormones taken to restore normal levels.

If erectile dysfunction is a potential side effect of medication, your doctor may prescribe you an alternative.

If you drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week, particularly prior to sex, reducing your drinking may help. If you find this difficult, speak to your doctor.

Sildenafil (sold as Viagra) is a drug which produces an erection a few minutes after taking. It is available on prescription and over the counter from pharmacists.

Tadalafil (Cialis), vardenafil (Levitra) and avanafil (Spedra) are similar drugs which work in a similar way to produce an erection when needed.

A vacuum pump is a simple mechanical device which fits over the penis and allows the air to be pumped out. This has the effect of pulling blood into the penis. A snug rubber ring can then be placed around the base of the penis to maintain the erection.

As mentioned, erectile dysfunction is often a symptom of other emotional or psychological factors. Stress, lack of sleep, being over worked, drinking lots of alcohol or relationship problems can all contribute.

Counselling, either from an emotional therapist or a sexual therapist, may help. This may include CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) or being prescribed medication if you are suffering from a mood disorder such as depression or anxiety.

Relax, you’re not alone.

Though it can feel very frustrating or embarrassing, erectile dysfunction is very common and typically easy to treat.

In the first instance, try to relax and not to worry. This can often be a quick and effective way to resolve the problem.

If the issue persists, speak to Essex Sexual Health Service and we will arrange a discreet and understanding consultation.