Erectile dysfunction can be defined as the inability of a man to achieve and maintain an erection sufficient for sexual activity, It is a condition that affects as many as 30 million men in the United States. Erectile dysfunction may be caused by psychological or emotional challenges. Or, it may be brought on by physical conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and multiple sclerosis. In the following article, we discuss and explain multiple conditions that contribute to erectile dysfunction.
What is Erectile Dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction refers to the recurring inability to achieve and maintain an erection firm enough for sex. Erectile dysfunction is a condition that affects as many as 30 million men in the United States. Ongoing erectile dysfunction can cause stress and anxiety, affect self-confidence, and contribute to relationship problems. Issues with getting or maintaining an erection can also be linked to underlying health concerns like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and chronic kidney disease.
Conditions That Contribute to Erectile Dysfunction
Most causes of erectile dysfunction are thought to be psychological and emotional. However, there are also many diseases and physical conditions that contribute in some way to erectile dysfunction. Some physical conditions inhibit blood flow necessary to maintain an erection. Other conditions, such as depression, may prevent a man from becoming aroused enough to achieve an erection and participate in sexual activity.
Erectile dysfunction is not always the sign of an underlying heart or blood flow problem. In the past, heart problems were thought to be linked to erectile dysfunction through atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque buildup prevents blood flow in the arteries. Recent research, however, has indicated that erectile dysfunction caused by heart disease is more likely the result of dysfunction of the inner lining of the blood vessels, a condition known as endothelial dysfunction.
Endothelial dysfunction is a kind of coronary artery disease in which arteries are not blocked, but rather large blood vessels constrict instead of opening wider. Endothelial dysfunction prevents smooth muscle cells lining the arteries from relaxing, constricting blood flow. Blood vessels that constrict instead of open when blood flows through can drastically inhibit blood flow to the rest of the body, including to the penis.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is perhaps the medical condition most directly linked to erectile dysfunction. A study published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society showed that almost half of men with high blood pressure between the ages of 40 and 79 also experienced erectile dysfunction.
High blood pressure can keep the arteries that carry blood to and from the penis from dilating properly. If blood vessels cannot dilate properly, there often does not exist enough pressure in the vessels to achieve and maintain an erection. High blood pressure can also cause blood clots to form in the arteries and veins, potentially leading to stroke.
Erectile Dysfunction And Type 2 Diabetes
Erectile dysfunction is common in men with diabetes, especially those with type 2 diabetes. In these cases, erectile dysfunction is often the result of damage to blood vessels caused by high blood sugar. Studies have shown that men with type 2 diabetes are two to three times more likely to experience erectile dysfunction than those without diabetes.
Fortunately, erectile dysfunction is one the most curable side effects of type 2 diabetes. In those who have diabetes and erectile dysfunction, changes in lifestyle such as a healthier diet, better sleep, and reducing smoking have been shown to help prevent erectile dysfunction.
Chronic Kidney Disease
Erectile dysfunction is a very common condition in those with chronic kidney disease. Most patients with kidney disease have narrower blood vessels than those who don’t. These narrow blood vessels are less effective at transporting blood throughout the body, including to the penis. Additionally, in men with chronic kidney disease, blood sometimes leaks out of blood vessels, causing the loss of an erection. Kidney disease can also cause hormonal changes. In some cases, hormones that control sexual urges and responses may be affected, resulting in erectile dysfunction.
Atherosclerosis is a condition in which fats, cholesterol, and other substances accumulate on the walls of arteries in the kidney. As these deposits of fat and cholesterol grow larger over time, blood flow can be significantly inhibited in many areas, including the penis. Serious atherosclerosis may also lead to kidney and artery scarring, which may prevent men from ever achieving an erection again.
Erectile dysfunction can contribute to feelings of sadness, anxiety, and depression, which in turn may further inhibit sexual function. Studies show that between 35 and 47 percent of people diagnosed with depression experience trouble with their sex life. The sexual urge and response that causes men to achieve an erection is catalyzed by interactions between brain chemicals. Depression can cause an unbalance among the brain chemicals which play key roles stimulating sexual desire and the appropriate physical response.
Multiple sclerosis is a debilitating disease of the brain and spinal cord. It can result in loss of vision, intense pain, fatigue, and problems with coordination. Erectile dysfunction is also a common side effect of multiple sclerosis. Although research on the relationship between multiple sclerosis and erectile dysfunction is still fairly limited, studies have shown that between 60% and 90% of men with multiple sclerosis suffer from some form of sexual dysfunction.
Prostate Inflammation and Cancer
The prostate is an essential part of the male reproductive system, helping sperm to travel to the penis during ejaculation. Prostate cancer and prostate inflammation can lead to erectile dysfunction, painful ejaculation, and a significant drop in sexual desire.
An enlarged or inflamed prostate may sometimes require a procedure known as transurethral resection of the prostate, or TURP. Although it is highly successful at treating prostate enlargement and inflammation, TURP can sometimes contribute to retrograde ejaculation and erectile dysfunction.
Conditions That Contribute To Erectile Dysfunction: Summary
Erectile dysfunction is a common condition which refers to the recurring inability to achieve and maintain an erection firm enough for sex. It can be caused by psychological factors, emotional difficulties, or a variety of physical conditions.
Physical conditions and diseases that affect the heart and blood flow, including heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, can cause erectile dysfunction. Other conditions that have been found to contribute to erectile dysfunction include multiple sclerosis and prostate cancer.