Some men experience erectile dysfunction as a result of physiological factors, including medications that can interfere with sexual response, chronic illness (e.g., heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes), physical disability, alcoholism, drug use, or injury that impedes blood flow to the erectile tissue. High cholesterol, which can limit blood flow through the atreries that supply the genital area, can also be associated with erectile dysfunction. For others, psychological concerns, including stress, anxiety, self-esteem, or fatigue are the source. Researchers believe that for many men erectile dysfunction is caused by a combination of physical, psychological, and cultural factors.
How do you know if you are suffering from erectile dysfunction?
"I like to recommend that couples think outside the box," Dr. Hartzell said. "Intercourse doesn't always have to be the goal; look at sex as pleasure oriented vs. goal oriented." She suggested couples incorporating oral sex and manual stimulation into their bedroom routine. She also advised couples to "have fun" with their sex lives by not adhering to a specific schedule or routine: One woman she works with, for instance, leaves her partner's injection on her pillow as a subtle signal that she's in the mood to have sex.
Regular exercise and a diet rich in antioxidants is also the foundation of permanent weight control and diabetes prevention. Studies at the Duke University Diet and Fitness Center show that weight loss is strongly associated with better sexual function. Other studies show that diabetes is a major risk factor for ED, and that a healthy lifestyle prevents the disease and can restore erection function.
If your erections are really strong, fantastic. Regular erections—including daily morning erections—are an important measure of a man’s health. If you get strong, frequent erections, that’s great! There’s no need to be concerned about being “too hard” as your body only has so much blood to offer. However, an erection that lasts too long (generally more than two hours) can be dangerous as priapism (erections lasting longer than 2 hours) can cause tissue damage. If you’ve had an erection lasting longer than four hours contact a doctor or emergency care immediately.
Instead, bench any P-in-V action for a beat and lower the stakes by telling him you want to fool around—not as a precursor to penetrative sex but just for the fun of it, suggests Natalie Finegood Goldberg, a sex therapist in Los Angeles who specializes in erectile dysfunction therapy. If this is a hookup situation, make it clear to him that you don’t expect or need him to have an erect penis for the two of you to have a good time, Goldberg says. You can always have oral sex, make out, or do some manual stimulation—because the worst thing you can do is freeze him out.
Booze. Most men have learned: One too many cocktails doesn’t improve performance; instead, it can have the opposite effect. During a recent study of 1,506 Chinese males, the men who drank three or more drinks a week were more likely to have ED or some form of sexual dysfunction. “Men may find that alcohol decreases social inhibition, which makes it easier to approach a woman,” says Montague. “But alcohol is a depressant, and at higher quantities it can reduce both a man’s desire and ability to perform.”
The answers to these questions, as well as physiological tests like an ultrasound or neurological assessment, can help determine the root cause of ED. Depending on the cause, different treatment options are available. Treatments range from medication, to hormone replacement therapy, to vascular surgery, to sex therapy and/or couples counseling. It sounds like you have ruled out many physical factors, in which case it may be useful to consider psychological factors. Often, couples counseling and/or sex therapy (as a couple or individual) can identify factors related to ED, help with communication, and improve sex for both partners. For a sex therapist, check out the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) web site and click on the "Locate a Professional" link.
Natural treatments: Although natural remedies are increasingly available for sale over the counter, there is little scientific evidence to support their claims of improving ED. These remedies may produce adverse side effects or react negatively with other medications a man is taking. Before trying any over-the-counter treatments, it is essential to consult a doctor.
To avoid such conflicts, Hartzell said she usually meets with both the ED patient and their partner, to emphasize that "it's not his problem, it's their problem," which means they both need to be part of the solution. She says this can be a "mind trip" for those who view erections as the sole measure of a partner's desire for them, as Francis' partner clearly did.
Another way to keep your libido up is to act when you do get aroused. This might mean going home at lunchtime to have sex with your spouse, or leaving a party early with your date if you’re both aroused. Staving off an arousal trains your body to disassociate arousal with erections. You want the opposite. You want to get and keep a strong erection when you feel aroused so that you can have better sex. So this is a great excuse to tend to your sexual needs as they come, if you can.
Erectile dysfunction is the inability to attain or maintain an erection adequate for the sexual satisfaction of both partners. At one time, doctors tended to blame ED on psychological problems or, with older men, on the normal aging process. Today, urologists say physical factors underlie perhaps 90% of cases of persistent erectile dysfunction in men older than 50.