What are erection problems?
If you often have trouble getting or keeping an erection, you may have erectile dysfunction, or ED. ED used to be called “impotence.”
What causes an erection?
When you are sexually stimulated, your brain sends nerve signals to the penis, causing the muscles in the penis to relax and let blood flow into it. The penis becomes larger and firmer, like an inflated balloon. The veins in the penis are then closed off to trap the blood. After climax or after the sexual arousal has passed, the veins open up and blood flows back into the body.
What causes erectile dysfunction?
ED is most often caused by health problems that require treatment to help prevent more serious complications. Some of the problems that can cause ED are
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- alcohol or drug abuse
- some prescription drugs
- unhealthy habits like smoking, overeating, and not exercising
- treatments for prostate cancer
- an injury or disease that affects the nerves
How is erectile dysfunction treated?
Lifestyle changes-including exercising more, quitting smoking, losing weight, and cutting back on alcohol-may solve the problem. If you have made these changes and still have erection problems, your doctor can offer a number of other treatments. Treatment may include
- Counseling. Even though most cases of ED have a physical cause, counseling can help couples deal with the emotional effects.
- Oral medication. Your doctor may prescribe a pill to treat ED. Current brands include Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis. These drugs work by increasing blood flow to the penis. Do not take any of these drugs if you are taking nitrates, a type of heart medicine.
- Injection. Medicines injected into the shaft of the penis or inserted into the tip of the penis usually cause an erection within minutes.
- Vacuum device. A vacuum tube inserted over the penis can create an erection. As air is pumped out of the tube, the penis expands and blood flows into it. After the tube is removed, a specially designed rubber band is placed at the base of the penis to keep the blood from flowing out.
- Penile implant. If other options fail, a surgeon can implant a device into the penis that inflates or can be straightened to create an erection.