Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is very common and it’s a lot more prevalent than most people think.
In the UK, erectile problems affect up to 20% of men which is a huge number of 4.3 million.
Erectile dysfunction is a complex health issue that has both mental and physical health components.
A purely psychological problem is seen in about 10% of cases. The most common psychological component is referred to as "performance anxiety" which relates to the fear of failing to perform sexually.
This covers a broad range of circumstances including apprehension about getting and keeping an erection, and a fear of not pleasing your partner.
Other psychological issues include body dysmorphia (time spent worrying about flaws in your appearance) and indifference (a lack of interest in sexual activity).
It's important to remember that an erection is a neurovascular event which means that the cardiovascular and nervous systems play a vital role.
Of the 90% of men who have an underlying physical cause, the main factors relate to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hormone issues and nerve disorders;
- Cardiovascular Disease (e.g. high blood pressure): 40%
- Diabetes: 33%
- Hormone Imbalance (e.g. high prolactin, low testosterone levels, drug use): 11%
- Neurological Disorders: 10%
- Other (e.g. pelvic surgery or trauma, tight foreskin, Peyronie's disease): 6%
As cardiovascular issues are the main cause of erectile dysfunction, its no surprise that erectile dysfunction is more likely to happen as you get older. Indeed, about half of men aged between 40 and 70 suffer erectile dysfunction.
Whilst ED issues mostly affect older men, recent studies have revealed an increase in young people suffering from ED.
In 2018, an in-depth study was commissioned with 2,000 men across the UK to find out more about their experiences and their lifestyle.
The key finding, which made the national press, was that 50% of British men in their thirties were struggling in the bedroom.
Whilst this didn’t necessary mean they were suffering from erectile dysfunction, which is diagnosed as a “persistent, or regular, inability to get a satisfactory arousal”, it reflected the strains of being a young person in society today.
The same study revealed that men still see erectile dysfunction as socially stigmatising.
The study revealed that men continue to suffer in silence, with a third of all men aged 18-60 saying they had not told anyone about their erectile dysfunction.
The study also revealed the hesitancy of men to go to the GP, as two thirds of men would rather send their partner to the GP and get ED treatment on their behalf.
There are several steps men can take to reduce their risk of erectile dysfunction, including quitting smoking, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and healthy diet, and lowering the intake of alcohol.
The psychological problems can be helped by reducing stress and getting help for anxiety or depression. For the incidences where there is an underlying physical cause, the available treatments for are much more effective than they used to be.
For example, if erectile dysfunction is attributed to a narrowing of penis blood vessels or high blood pressure, then there is treatment available to lower blood pressure. If it is attributed to high cholesterol, there are statins available to lower cholesterol.
Remember, as with most things in life, a problem shared is a problem halved. If you are experiencing sexual dysfunction for whatever reason, you should reach out to your doctor so that they can help you.
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