Like many men, you’ll probably experience erectile dysfunction (ED) at some stage in your lifetime. This common condition is the repeated inability to achieve or maintain an erection that’s firm enough for sexual intercourse. It affects 42 percent of men between the ages of 40 and 70 to some degree. If you’re too ashamed to discuss this unfortunate health issue with your doctor, you’re not alone. A study of 6 million ED participants found that 75 percent either didn’t receive or failed to fill prescriptions.
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These prescription medications block phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5), the enzyme that reverses erections. That helps widen arteries so more blood can flow into your penis during sexual stimulation. Treatment prolongs arousal chemicals including nitric oxide, which enhances blood circulation, while improving erectile function.
Only 25 Percent of ED Patients Take Their Medications
Despite a wide range of treatment options, a new study found that 75 percent of men with erectile dysfunction don’t get treatment. Only 25 percent of subjects received ED medications. Men underutilize ED treatments overall, according to lead researcher Dr. Brian Helfand, an assistant clinical professor of urology at Northshore University Health System and the University of Chicago.
Using an insurance claim database, Helfand examined the medical records of 6.2 million men aged 30 and older with erectile dysfunction diagnoses. He searched for the ED medical code from June 2010 through July 2011. Then he noted how many patients had filled their prescriptions for ED drugs such as Cialis (Tadalafil), Viagra (Sildenafil), injectable or urethral suppository prostaglandins, or androgen hormone replacements. He divided the men into two categories. Treated subjects had filled prescriptions but untreated patients hadn’t.
The study took men’s ages and other health problems into account. Even though erectile dysfunction tends to be more common with age, the researchers discovered that older men were the least likely to receive treatment. Only about 18 percent of patients aged 65 and older had bought their medications. The investigators found that just 15 percent of men with prostate cancer received treatment, making them the least likely to purchase prescribed drugs.
Helfand noted probable reasons why so many patients didn’t receive treatment. Doctors may not have offered prescriptions. Embarrassment or medication costs may have stopped men who received prescriptions from filling them.
Managing Contributing Factors
Consider the possible medical and lifestyle factors that can contribute to ED. In many cases, changing a few bad habits can reduce your erection problems.
Before starting ED medication, your doctor can diagnose and treat any underlying conditions. Watch out for significant ED and cardiovascular disease contributors including high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated lipids, obesity, and metabolic syndrome.
Regular physical activity can improve your sex life. “Exercise works on several fronts to combat the development of ED and help reverse it once it has become a problem,” said Zachary R. Mucher, M.D., a board certified urologist in Sugar Land, Texas. It improves blood flow, which is vital for strong erections, and increases nitric oxide in blood vessels the way ED medications do. Weight-bearing exercise can boost your natural testosterone production for enhanced erectile strength.
The foods you eat have a direct impact on erectile dysfunction. Mucher recommends a balanced diet that’s rich in fruit, veggies, whole grains, and fish with fewer servings of red meat and refined grains to decrease your ED risk. Obesity increases vascular disease and diabetes chances, two factors that contribute to ED. Men with 42-inch waists are 50 percent more likely to have ED than men whose middles measure just 32 inches. A healthy diet also will help you maintain an optimal body weight.
Mucher cautions that this depressant can cause temporary and long-term erectile dysfunction. Heavy alcohol consumption inhibits your central nervous system’s release of nitric oxide, an essential chemical for generating and maintaining erections.
Like vascular disease, smoking and even smokeless tobacco can narrow or block your arteries, restricting the blood supply to your penis. If you can’t quit on your own, your doctor can prescribe a smoking cessation aid.
Emotional issues like stress and anxiety may account for up to 20 percent of all erection problems. Identify stressors and learn to redirect and reduce stress. Take some quiet time to develop a reusable relaxation technique. Examine and modify your thinking, especially unrealistic expectations. Discussing problems with friends or family can help you view concerns in the proper perspective. If necessary, seek professional assistance to manage stress.