5 Frequently Asked Questions about Erectile Dysfunction

Approximately 50% of men between the ages of 40 and 70 have some degree of erectile dysfunction (ED). Erectile dysfunction, also called impotence, is the inability to get and maintain an erection during sex. Here are some of the commonly asked questions our urologists hear from patients.

  1. Is ED a normal part of aging?
    Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is a common problem, and the risk of ED increases with age. However, it is not a normal part of aging. If you’re experiencing ED, it’s important to talk to your doctor, as it may be a symptom of other health issues.

  2. What causes ED?
    A combination of emotional and physical factors influence sexual arousal. However, ED is most often caused by physical conditions, which may include any of the following:
    • Heart disease
    • Clogged blood vessels
    • High cholesterol
    • High blood pressure
    • Diabetes
    • Obesity
    • Sleep disorders
    • Medication effects
    • Smoking effects
    • Pelvic surgery
    • Other diseases

      Psychological causes of ED can include stress, relationship issues, depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions.

  3. What are the treatment options? Is Viagra™ the only option?
    Your doctor will assess your overall health, considering any health conditions that may be causing your ED, before suggesting treatment options. Viagra™, the first of a new class of drugs called Phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE 5) inhibitors, is one medication and treatment option. PDE5 inhibitors treat ED by relaxing blood vessel muscles in the penis, thereby improving blood flow and facilitating erection. Other similar drugs include Cialis™ and Levitra™. Other medical treatment options include the following:

    • Testosterone Replacement for men with low testosterone levels. This can be given in pill form, by skin patch, in a topical gel, or by injection.

    • Self-injection: Using a fine needle, a medication is injected into the penis to cause an erection.

    • Alprostadil Urethral Suppository (MUSE™): A tiny suppository, the size of a grain of rice, is placed in the penis urethra, where it is absorbed. The medication causes increased blood flow, resulting in an erection.

    • Vacuum Device: Blood can be drawn into the penis using a vacuum erection device.

    • Surgery: Surgery is considered a treatment of last resort, but can be beneficial for men with blood vessel blockage.

      If your ED is caused in part by stress, relationship problems, depression or anxiety, your doctor may suggest counselling.

  4. If I take ED medication, will I have an erection for hours?
    Despite the many jokes on television and in movies, it is very rare to have an erection for hours following the use of ED medication. The most common—and short-lived—side effects of Viagra™ and other PDE5 inhibitors are headache, upset stomach and nasal congestion.

  5. Is ED reversible?
    Several studies have demonstrated that lifestyle changes can improve and reverse ED for many men. Exercise, improved sleep, stress management, weight loss, quitting smoking and decreased alcohol consumption can have beneficial effects.

Resources

Canadian Urological Association, www.cua.org

The Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/erectile-dysfunction/basics/definition/con-20034244
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