Erectile dysfunction: What can I do?
Updated: Feb 2, 2022
Talking about sexual performance problems can be challenging. But it's essential to fight with the situation and educate yourself about the different causes of erectile dysfunction, mightily if you're grappling with a performance issue and don't know how to tackle it on your own.
It's also essential to recognize the difference between erection problems caused by a condition like mild appearance anxiety and one caused by a more severe health problem, like an atherosclerotic heart condition.
In many cases, taking an erectile dysfunction medication - like sildenafil - will help you manage the symptoms of erectile dysfunction. It would help if you spoke to a pharmacologist or doctor for further guidance before taking this medication.
However, you may also be able to improve your marks by changing your lifestyle and diet.
In this article, you will learn about the different causes of erectile dysfunction and how to help manage problems with your erection.
What is erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction (or ED) is defining as the persistent inability to attain and maintain an erection sufficient to allow for adequate sexual performance.
It's a common problem. Studies conducted in China, the US, Germany, and Brazil show that erectile dysfunction affects 16 to 40% of the adult male population, with approximately 150 million new cases reported yearly.
Although older men are more likely to develop erectile dysfunction, the condition can develop at any age. Research conducted in Italy showed that one in every four patients seeking help for erectile dysfunction is under the age of 40.
Research suggests that erectile dysfunction is becoming more common. Scientists at the Boston University School of Medicine estimate 322 million new cases per year by 2025 - an improvement of almost 170 million cases of erectile dysfunction per year.
Prescriptions for ED medications - like sildenafil, tadalafil, and vardenafil - are also on the rise.
Erectile dysfunction is a complex issue that's linked to several different health conditions. It can happen due to conditions like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, or multiple sclerosis, but it can cause overconsumption of alcohol, performance anxiety, or weight gain.
Medication from a doctor may be one way to produce and maintain an erection. Still, you may also be able to tackle erectile dysfunction by making changes to your diet or lifestyle.
What causes erectile dysfunction?
Erections are complicated. They develop as part of a multistage manner that starts when mental or physical stimulation prompts your central nervous system to release the substance nitrous oxide.
Nitrous oxide encourages the arteries that supply your penis with blood to widen, allowing blood to infuse the soft tissue that lines your penis.
Because it relies on the vascular, endocrine, and central nervous systems, many health conditions can impede this process, including:
Atherosclerosis which produces your arteries to narrow and harden, limiting the amount of blood that can reach your penis
Diabetes which affects both the blood supply and the nerve endings in your penis
High blood pressure can damage the arteries that feed the penis.
Multiple sclerosis which affects your central nervous system
Parkinson's disease, which affects your brain's ability to release essential hormones
Nerve or spinal injuries
Hormonal conditions like hyperthyroidism or Cushing's syndrome
Peyronie's disease, which affects the tissues in the penis
Certain medications cause temporary erectile dysfunction in men, including antihypertensives, diuretics, antidepressants, antihistamines, and medicines containing steroids.
Several lifestyle factors are also connecting to erectile dysfunction, including:
Lack of exercise
Recreational drug use
Many risk factors are dealing with cardiovascular diseases (CVD), such as some of these lifestyle factors (smoking, lack of exercise, obesity) and others, like diabetes mellitus, high cholesterol, and hypertension.
Erectile dysfunction is often an early warning sign for cardiovascular disease. If you're struggling to sustain an erection, you should always see a doctor rule out or treat any underlying conditions like cardiovascular disease.
Psychological conditions like depression, anxiety, stress, and relationship issues are also links to persistent problems with erectile dysfunction.
It's always worth considering the steps you can take to minimize the potential for sexual performance issues.
What can I do to develop erectile dysfunction?
If you're worried, you may have erectile dysfunction, or you're having problems maintaining an erection, see a doctor. They will discuss the issue, assess any medication you may be taking, and do a physical examination.
A doctor may arrange some tests to identify or rule out any underlying causes. These tests may include looking for risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, such as a blood sugar level test and a blood test for cholesterol and other fats (lipids).
Suppose your erection problems are links to a lifestyle factor or psychological condition like performance anxiety. In that case, you may be able to improve erectile problems - or stop them from getting worse - by making positive changes to your diet and lifestyle.
There is some evidence that changing lifestyle factors can improve erectile function, though more studies are needing in this area.
Because erectile dysfunction bestows many of the same risk factors as cardiovascular disease, making positive changes to your diet, lifestyle, and exercise regime can improve your cardiovascular health as well as your general health.
These lifestyle changes include:
There is a strong link between erectile dysfunction and obesity. The exact reasons for this link are not fully recognized. Weight loss is also associated with several related benefits, including a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and atherosclerotic heart disease.
Healthy weight loss is essential, however. Fad diets and rapid weight loss regimes are rarely effective, and many carry their health risks. For best results, aim to lose between 1lb and 2lb per week by:
Cutting down on junk food or foods high in sugar
Eating more fruit and vegetables.
Eating more whole-grain foods, like brown pasta or brown rice.
Exercising for at least 150 minutes per week
Drinking more water
Making sure you're eating regular meals to reduce the temptation to snack
If you need some help formulating a weight loss plan, you'll find some helpful information in our guide to healthy weight loss.
Giving up cigarettes
The substances in cigarette smoke can damage your heart. Several studies have shown that smoking significantly increases the risk of erectile dysfunction because smoking limits the blood supply to the penis.
If you're serious about giving up cigarettes, you could:
Write a list of the reasons you want to quit.
Develop a plan to cope with your cravings, including ways to distract yourself
Explore nicotine replacement therapies, such as patches, tablets, lozenges, gum, and a nasal spray
Exercise more to combat cravings
Enlist the help of family members or friends who can keep you on track
If you're in the UK, look to your local Stop Smoking Service.
You can also find some helpful tips on the critical times to quit smoking.
Reducing alcohol consumption
Heavy drinking can interfere with your nervous system and may prevent you from getting an erection.
Drinking too much alcohol can also cause other problems, such as disrupting your hormone levels, which could hinder your ability to get or maintain an erection. To keep your health risks from alcohol as low as possible, you should aim to consume less than 14 units per week.
You can make the process of cutting down on alcohol easier by:
Setting yourself a daily limit
Setting yourself a weekly budget for alcohol.
Choosing lower strength drinks
Making smaller drinks
Here are some tips on cutting down the amount you drink. Your doctor may also be able to help you reduce your alcohol consumption.
Reducing anxiety and stress
Stress and anxiety are links to erectile problems. This stress can include worries about work, money, relationship, or family matters.
If you find you're feeling occasional erectile problems or that your erectile dysfunction seems to come and go depending on the situation, it's more likely to be caused by stress or anxiety.
You can't always prevent stress, but there are some things you can do to manage your emotions and reduce the impact that stress is having on your life.
Exploring mindfulness which can help to improve your mental wellbeing
Using calming breathing exercises
Talking to your friends or family members about your problems
Taking regular exercise
Making sure you are eating healthily.
Making sure you get enough sleep
Tackling performance anxiety
If you feel pressure to perform during sex, worry about your ability to please your partner, or find you're nervous about having sex, you may struggle to get or maintain an erection.
This issue may pass as you and your partner get more comfortable with each other, but performance anxiety can be a self-perpetuating problem.
If you fail to perform once, you may feel anxious the next time you engage in sexual activity. Over time, this problem can sometimes lead to persistent erectile dysfunction.
Talking to your partner may help to reduce your anxiety. Pick a time when you are both relaxed to engage in an honest and open discussion about your concerns. You may find this helps to put your mind at ease.
Sometimes, counseling for couples or sex therapy can be useful. Alternatively, you could try cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
CBT can deliver in different ways. It can be done one-on-one, in a group, or through a self-help book. You can even use an online service from the privacy of your own home, and for this, try Brave.
Brave offers a range of online courses designed to help you manage anxiety and stress. Most of these courses use live-illustration videos to pass on essential skills and methods for dealing with stressful situations, which can prove useful if you're struggling with performance anxiety.
Erectile dysfunction is a complex issue that affects a lot of men.
It can be the result of an underlying medical issue. But there are lifestyle changes you can make to improve ED, including:
Giving up cigarettes
Reducing your alcohol consumption
Tackling stress and anxiety in a positive way
Addressing these factors may improve your ability to get and maintain an erection and improve your general health.