Erectile dysfunction (ED) or male impotence is defined as the inability of a male to achieve and maintain an erection sufficient for mutually satisfactory intercourse with his partner.
Sexual health and function are important determinants of quality of life. As Americans age, disorders such as erectile dysfunction (ED) or impotence are becoming increasingly more important. Because this subject is discussed widely in the media, men and women of all ages are seeking guidance in an effort to improve their relationships and experience satisfying sex lives.
Sexual dysfunction is often associated with disorders such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, nervous system disorders, and depression. Sexual dysfunction may also be related to nonpathological states, such as anxiety, fatigue, and psychosocial stress. Erectile dysfunction may also be an unwanted side effect from certain medications. In some men, sexual dysfunction may be the symptom of such disorders that brings them to the doctor's office.
The successful treatment of impotence has been demonstrated to improve couple intimacy, improve sexual satisfaction, improve male self-esteem, and overall quality of life. In some men, it may also relieve symptoms of depression.
Moreover, the condition of premature ejaculation is often confused with erectile dysfunction. Premature ejaculation is a condition in which the entire process of arousal, erection, ejaculation, and climax occur very rapidly, often in just a few minutes or even seconds, leaving the partner unsatisfied. Premature ejaculation may accompany an erection problem such as ED but is generally treated differently.
Although this educational review focuses primarily on the male with ED (difficulty to achieve and maintain erection), it is important to note that the partner plays an integral role in the process and treatment. If successful and effective management is to occur, any discussion of treatment should include the couple. Involvement of a sexologist is often recommended to help the couple deal with the relationship difficulties that encompass ED.
For a man to have an erection, a complex neurovascular process takes place within the body.
Other male problems, such as premature ejaculation and loss of libido (decreased sexual desire), are also very common. The NHSLS found that 28.5% of men 18-59 years of age reported premature ejaculation, and 15.8% lacked interest during the past year. An additional 17% reported anxiety about sexual performance, and 8.1% indicated a lack of pleasure from sexual activity.
Erectile dysfunction can be caused by any number of physical and psychological factors. In general, ED is divided into organic (having to do with a bodily organ or organ system) and psychogenic (mental) impotence. Interestingly, and not surprisingly, most men with organic causes have a mental or psychological component, as well.
Male erectile problems often produce a significant emotional reaction based on confidence, self-esteem, and morale in most men. This is described as a pattern of anxiety and stress that can further interfere with normal sexual function.