What is impotence (erectile dysfunction)?
This is where the penis does not become erect enough for sexual intercourse, or does not stay erect for long enough. Most men may get occasional episodes of erectile dysfunction when stressed, tired or drunk. More persistent or recurring problems increase with age, and half of men between 40 and 70 years of age have erectile dysfunction. Loss of erectile function can be very distressing, but can also often be treated.
What causes erectile dysfunction?
There are a number of possible causes, including:
Reduced blood flow to the penis - if the arteries to the penis become narrowed then the reduced flow can lead to erectile problems. Risk factors for this include increasing age, smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes
Nerve problems - diseases such as multiple sclerosis and strokes can affect the nerve supply to the penis. It is also thought that long-distant cycling can affect the nerves and cause erectile problems
Medication - certain medications such as antidepressants and heart tablets can cause erectile dysfunction, but always speak to your doctor before changing your medication.
Alcohol and drugs - these are common causes for erectile problems
Stress, anxiety, depression or relationship problems are also common causes of erectile dysfunction.
What tests may be done?
Your specialist may organise a number of tests, including blood and urine tests. Scans and heart tests may also sometimes be required.
What treatment can be done?
If a cause can be identified, then this should be treated in the first instance; this may include counselling to help with any psychological causes such as stress or anxiety. If medication side-effects are the cause then alternative medications may be able to be prescribed. With treatment of the cause, erectile function may return.
If erections do not return, or if a specific cause cannot be found, then medication can be used to help onset of erections. If these do not work then injections can be used; you are taught how to inject a medicine into the base of the penis and erections normally occur within 10-15 minutes.
If all options fail, then a prosthesis can be used; a permanent silicone rod is inserted into the penis, which is attached to a small balloon pump. The pump sits under the skin and is used to inflate the rod, causing an erection when wanted.
The information provided is as a guide only and you should discuss matters fully with your specialist before deciding if this is the right procedure for you. Please also read our disclaimer