Why You Shouldn’t Be Embarrassed to Talk About Erectile Dysfunction

man wearing tie Guest Blogger: Katherine Rotker, MD, Urologist

Although it can be a sensitive and private subject, discussing erectile dysfunction (ED) doesn’t need to be embarrassing. ED is a medical condition that affects more than 18 million men in America. In fact, by their 70s, 60 percent of men will be affected by ED. As a urologist, a doctor who focuses on diseases of the urinary tract and reproductive organs, I am very comfortable having these discussions and helping patients with this condition.

ED is the consistent inability to get or keep an erection which is satisfying for sex. Although the condition is more common amongst older men, age itself doesn’t cause ED, and it can affect even young men. One of the most common causes of ED is poor blood flow into or out of the penis due to hardening of the vessels. Diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are known to harden the arteries all over the body, including those in the penis.

Other causes of ED: It can be an uncomfortable topic, but it’s an important one!

  • Nerve impairment
  • Hormonal imbalances (low levels of testosterone, thyroid hormones, pituitary gland problems)
  • Medications
  • Psychogenic factors (e.g., stress, anxiety, depression, alcohol use, psychological factors)
  • Nerve damage from disease or surgery

You should have a conversation with your doctor if you have concerns about ED and its causes.

While sexual dysfunction is usually what brings a patient to my office, the illnesses that can cause ED (e.g., vascular disease and diabetes) are also important. ED can be a warning sign for diseases of the blood vessels. Hardening of these vessels can be a precursor to a heart attack. Men with diabetes are four times more likely than men without diabetes to experience ED; And of them, 50 percent of men with diabetes will have ED.

If you or a loved one suffer from ED, don’t be nervous, embarrassed, or shy about having a conversation with your primary care physician, a urologist, or even a sexual therapist. Help is available and it may just save your life. To learn more about ED, watch our educational video here.

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