"When it's persistent and consistent, it's extremely likely to have biological factors" regardless of age, Dr. Irwin Goldstein, director of sexual medicine at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego and the director of San Diego Sexual Medicine, told Mic. But the cause of ED can also be psychological: For instance, if a man can get an erection on his own but not with a partner, then his ED is more likely to be rooted in performance anxiety or a deeper psychological issue.
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Assuming an absence of any significant spinal damage or hormonal disorders, the potential barriers are in fact different at stage one and two. At stage one, anything that causes impairment in your psychological ability to become stimulated will hamper an activation of your nervous system. At stage two, anything that contributes to a narrowing of blood vessels will hamper the engorgement of your erection.
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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.
The vascular processes that produce an erection are controlled by the nervous system and certain prescription medications may have the side effect of interfering with necessary nerve signals. Among the possible culprits are a variety of stimulants, sedatives, diuretics, antihistamines, and drugs to treat high blood pressure, cancer, or depression. But never stop a medication unless your doctor tells you to. In addition, alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs, such as marijuana, may contribute to the dysfunction.
Pycnogenol is a compound found in the French maritime pine (Pinus pinaster), which grows in southern Canada. Several studies show that in combination with the amino acid L-arginine, it boost synthesis of nitric oxide, which plays a significant role in erection. Other studies show that pycnogenol helps restore wilting erections. In one study, 124 ED sufferers took either a placebo or pycnogenol and L-arginine (four tablets a day, 20 mg pycnogenol, 700 mg L-arginine). After six months, the supplement group showed a modest but significant improvement in erection, without side effects.
For many young men, performance anxiety plays a large role in erectile dysfunction. Other factors include money and work problems, as well as relationship issues and even issues about sexual orientation. Undiagnosed depression and post-traumatic stress disorder can cause erectile dysfunction--especially if the PTSD is related to a past sexual experience.
The National Institutes of Health estimates that erectile dysfunction strikes as many as 30 million men in the United States. Its prevalence does increase with age — 4 percent of men in their 50s are affected by ED, 17 percent in their 60s, and 47 percent of those over 75. But research has also found that 5 percent of those affected were between 20 and 39.
Depression. The profound sadness, emptiness, and hopelessness that characterize depression may also cause ED among younger men. “The biggest effect of depression is on a man’s desire for sexual relations, or libido,” says Drogo Montague, MD, director of the Center for Genitourinary Reconstruction in the Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. “To some extent, depression can affect a man’s ability to maintain an erection. It can be a chicken-and-egg situation. However, reduced libido is a common indicator of depression.”
Stiffy Solution: The good news is, almost all of these conditions can be successfully treated if you catch them early on. And since erectile problems may be the first side effect your dude has experienced, seeking medical treatment for his erectile problems may be the thing to get him into a doctor's office. So if your dude is a well-rested, non-drinking, non-smoking, paragon of relaxation who suddenly can't get wood, urge him to talk to his doctor — his misbehaving penis may actually be communicating something way more important than "Not tonight, honey."
Ask about transurethral pharmacotherapy. Your doctor may suggest you try this treatment, which involves placing a suppository into the urethra. The suppository contains alprostadil, which is then absorbed into the blood stream, relaxing blood vessels and improving blood flow into the penis. This treatment is thought to be less effective than the vacuum devices, or injection therapy.