Weak erections also known as impotence or erectile dysfunction, may be an early warning signal of underlying cardiac or kidney disease. Around 65% of men with heart disease will have erectile dysfunction.
In fact, erectile dysfunction is often a symptomatic presentation of a large number of underlying medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol problems, neurological or hormonal disorders. It may also be a precursor to the development of a stroke or heart attack.
Often the presenting symptom in men with underlying coronary artery disease, is a difficulty in achieving or maintaining an erection sufficient for normal sexual intercourse.
The pathology of arterial disease is widespread in the body, affecting a large number of end organs, including the penis, and because the normal erection depends partly on a sufficient arterial inflow of blood, impotence often coexists with coronary artery disease. The arterial disease process is accelerated by smoking and by diseases such as diabetes.
There is a strong correlation between high cholesterol levels and erectile dysfunction.
A symposium on erectile dysfunction recently held in South Africa, quoted the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. This study quoted the prevalence of erectile dysfunction in the 40 to 70 year old age group at between 52%. It also demonstrated that around 93% of men who have had angioplasty for coronary artery disease, had moderate to severe erectile dysfunction. In addition, atherosclerotic artery disease accounted for 50% of erectile dysfunction cases over the age of 50 years.
Renal failure, too, is associated with a high prevalence of erectile dysfunction – up to 60% of renal failure patients suffer from severe erectile dysfunction.
All this evidence points at the importance of recognising erectile dysfunction as more than just a psychological entity. The diagnostic process must exclude coexistent disease processes in the body. The early identification of risk factors for impotence, like smoking, alcohol abuse, lack of physical exercise, poor diet, advancing age, the side effects of many medications and the other medical conditions mentioned earlier, will help to expose not only the cause of the erection difficulty, but also detect associated vital organ pathology.
There are two critical messages, the first is that impotence, or weakening erections should send a clear message to the man that there is possibly an underlying disease process in the body which is manifesting as poor erectile performance. Heart attacks, stroke, or kidney failure for example are very real threats in a man with vascular disease sufficient to cause impotence. Sexual medicine practitioners at these clinics undertake investigations to establish the underlying pathology and institute treatment protocols to retard their progress. No man should ignore the message that his failing penis may be sending out to him.
The second message is a positive one: treatments for erectile dysfunction have advanced to such an extent that it is now possible to return up to 90% of men with erectile dysfunction to normal sexually active lives, even well into the eighth and ninth decades of life. For the first time in history, there are reliable, safe and effective medical methods to address this common and serious male health issue.
Symptoms & Types
Erectile dysfunction is different from other conditions that affect sexual intercourse. Here’s information on the symptoms of ED, and whether treatment is needed.
Erectile Dysfunction Symptoms
Being unable to have or keep an erection adequate for sexual activity is the defining mark of erectile dysfunction. The problem may manifest itself in several ways.
Psychological Erectile Dysfunction
After all, erections do start in the brain.
Priapism is a persistent, usually painful, erection that lasts for more than four hours and occurs without sexual stimulation.
Peyronie’s disease is caused by scar tissue, called plaque, which forms along the length of the penis in the corpora cavernosa.
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