Preventing and Treating Erectile Dysfunction

What can be done to prevent the condition?

The best way to prevent erectile dysfunction is to reduce the risks. For instance, a man with diabetes should try to control his blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol as well as possible. It's also helpful to limit alcohol intake and stop smoking.

How is the condition diagnosed?

A medical evaluation is done when a man expresses concerns about erectile dysfunction to his healthcare provider. The evaluation may include a physical and psychological exam, and a written questionnaire on past sexual experiences. Lab tests are done to rule out certain diseases.

Sometimes a test called nocturnal penile tumescence, or erection self test, is performed. This is done to see if erections occur during sleep. If the test shows that erections occur, it can indicate the problem is mental rather than physical.

Another test, called color phase ultrasonography, also may be done. This evaluates blood flow to the penis.

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

Ignoring the physical causes of erectile dysfunction may result in a permanent inability to achieve an erection.

What are the risks to others?

Erectile dysfunction can affect relationships between partners, especially if men don't talk about the problem. Men should discuss the issue with their partners and seek out solutions together, if possible.

What are the treatments for the condition?

First, any underlying conditions that may cause the erectile dysfunction should be treated. Treatment may include counseling or sex therapy for men whose erectile dysfunction stems from emotional problems. Treatments for physical causes of erectile dysfunction should progress from less to more invasive.

Treatment may include:

  • using a vacuum pump device to draw blood into the penis
  • using oral prescription medications and herbal products, such as sildenafil, also known as Viagra, or Yohimbine
  • injecting the medication prostacyclin E into the penis
  • surgery to improve blood flow to the penis
  • implanting an inflatable prostheses into the penis

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Each treatment has its own set of advantages and side effects. The vacuum pump is very safe. But one drawback is that the constriction band, which keeps the erection, cannot be left on for more than 30 minutes.

Sildenafil or Viagra cannot be used in people who take nitroglycerine because the combination may cause severe low blood pressure and heart attack

Injections are relatively painless, but require careful dose adjustments by a healthcare provider.

Surgery is an option that should be discussed with a healthcare provider. There are possible side effects with any surgery. These include bleeding, infection, and reactions to the medications used to control pain.

What happens after treatment for the condition?

Most treatments for erectile dysfunction are taken right before planned intercourse. Successful treatment restores sexual function to a satisfactory level for the man and his partner.

How is the condition monitored?

A man follow up with his primary healthcare provider or to a urologist about whether the treatment is working satisfactorily.