What’s the most common sexual problem men report to their doctor? If you guessed erectile dysfunction (ED), you’re correct — and yet a mere fraction of those who struggle with this condition seek help. This is partly due to fear and partly due to misconceptions about ED and the treatments available. With over 30 million men impacted, it is important to dispel the common myths surrounding ED. Because this issue affects over 40 percent of men above age 40 and over 70 percent of men above age 70, according to the Urology Care Foundation, the chances of you or someone you know struggling with erection problems at some point are likely.
But first, what is ED and what can cause it?
ED is defined as trouble getting or keeping an erection that's firm enough for sex. It’s not unheard of for a man to occasionally have problems with his erections. However, if the ED is persistent and/or affecting relationships, then we recommend you seek professional help.
What Can Cause ED?
The most common reasons for experiencing ED are:
Decreased blood flow to the penis from blocked arteries or as a side effect of blood pressure medications
Nerve damage from spinal cord injuries or diabetes complications
Excess alcohol or drug use
A comprehensive resource on ED, including latest research, clinical trials and therapies can be found in the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Six Common ED Myths
1. I need testosterone.
Patients who discuss erectile dysfunction during a doctor’s visit may insist that low testosterone is the cause of their ED, but this is not true. Low testosterone manifests as a lack of libido or sexual drive — not true erectile problems — and has an entirely different pathway to diagnosis and treatment.
2. It’s a guy problem.
Another misconception of erectile dysfunction is that it is only a male problem — but sexual intimacy involves both partners. Some men may struggle with getting or maintaining an erection, but the partner may have sexual issues as well, ranging from libido to vaginal dryness to painful sex, which often occurs for women post-menopause. As a couple, they may have communication issues. A family doctor or urologist should include both partners in the discussion to get the full picture of what is or is not happening.
3. Medications are too expensive.
When ED drugs first appeared on the market, they were extremely expensive, but now these medications are generic and often cost less than $1 a pill.
4. I can trust supplements.
Many of the supplements you see advertised for ED aren’t FDA regulated, may not work and worse, have been found to be tainted with prescription medications of different variations. That’s dangerous, because if you are on one set of prescribed medications but mixing it with unregulated supplements, you could be putting your life at risk.
5. Treatments are not covered by insurance.
One big surprise to patients seeking treatment for ED struggles is discovering many of the evaluations and treatments, including penile implant surgeries, often are covered by insurance.
6. I am guaranteed to get normal erections with treatments.
Men with ED often are lured in by costly supplements and for-profit men’s clinics. If you are given 100 percent guarantees and asked to pay thousands of dollars, walk in the other direction. Pick up the phone and make an appointment with your primary care physician or a board-certified urologist. You want to receive care from experts who provide a multidisciplinary approach, have your individual needs in mind and will be factoring in what the best treatment options are for you.
Opening Up Isn’t Easy
No two patients with ED are alike, so treatments may vary greatly. For some, medications are safe and effective, but for others, alternatives such as vacuum erection devices, penile injection therapy and penile implants are more suitable options. Your urologist may consult with others on your care team to determine which options are best for you.
Talking about intimacy issues isn’t easy to do. When it comes to erection issues, remember that while getting treatment is easy, opening up about your problem is the difficult part.
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