While an embarrassing topic of discussion and therefore one that many men will often try to shy away from having, erectile dysfunction (also referred to as ED, sexual dysfunction, impotence, and male erectile disorder) affects more than 50% of males between the ages of 40 and 70, making it a much more common problem than you might think.

Characterized as the inability to achieve or maintain and erection, ED occurs when something blocks the brain-nerve-blood vessel process that the body goes through in order to develop an erection. The brain controls the what we see, hear, feel, think, and smell, while the nerves pass those signals from the brain to your body, following the opening of blood vessels to allow blood flow to the male genitalia (also known as the penis.) More often than not, the most common reason that these processes are blocked is due to a chronic health condition; including everything from cardiovascular disease to diabetes, metabolic syndrome, MS (multiple sclerosis), thyroid disorders, hormonal disorders, spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s disease, history of stroke, as well as any previous trauma to the genital area. It’s also possible to develop erectile dysfunction as a result of taking certain medications. For example, use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), anti-depressants, and medications used to treat high blood pressure. In addition, one can also develop ED if they have previously received or are receiving treatment for cancer – such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Furthermore, certain psychological conditions (such as depression, anxiety, stress, and relationship issues) and lifestyle habits (such as whether you’re a smoker, drink excessive amounts of alcohol, are overweight or obese) could also potentially increase a male’s risk of developing ED.

Along with being unable to sustain an erection, ED can have a significant impact on a male’s self-esteem. In addition, it can also have a negative effect on relationships, causing one or both parties of a relationship to want to withdraw from being physically intimate with each other, to causing problems with communication. It may also cause a man’s partner to feel as though an affair is taking place or as if they aren’t good enough – when in reality, a man will usually shy away from intimacy as they do not want to let their partner down. Having erectile dysfunction is never anyone’s fault and therefore it should not be taken personally. Because of this, it’s essential that couples keep their lines of communication open and talk about it. The less it is talked about, the more likely it is to have a negative impact on a relationship as a whole. In some cases, couples can also benefit from couple’s counselling to help with that communication. If a male has ED, then couples are also less likely to engage in intimacy – but this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case, as there are many other ways in which couples can maintain their closeness.

If you happen to be a male and any have concerns about your sexual health, such as with erectile dysfunction, it’s always important that you address these concerns with your physician. Not just for reassurance, but to make sure the cause of your erectile dysfunction isn’t due to a serious or underlying health problem. If your health is the cause, then that’s all the more reason why it’s so crucial to speak with your physician about those concerns you have regarding sexual health – because the quicker something is addressed, the quicker you will be on your way to resolving it.

When it comes to treating ED in particular, making certain changes to one’s lifestyle can cause an improvement (such as quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol, and losing weight.) There are also many medications that physicians are able to prescribe patients to help increase blood flow and improve erectile dysfunction – including sildenafil (commonly known as Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), and vardenafil. Family physicians like Dr. Ghahary typically recommend that first-time users of these medications try the initial dose on their own to ensure that it does what it’s supposed to do. In addition, these medications tend to work better when taken on an empty stomach and approximately one hour before sexual intimacy. Also, be aware that these medications come with side effects, including upset stomach and facial flushing; while less common side effects can include light sensitivity and temporarily blurred vision. In the event that this medication causes you to have an erection lasting longer than four hours, you should seek medical attention.