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Erectile Dysfunction Meaning

erectile dysfunction meaning

What is erectile dysfunction (ED)?

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get or keep an erection firm enough to have sexual intercourse. It’s also sometimes referred to as impotence.

Occasional ED isn’t uncommon. Many men experience it during times of stress. Frequent ED can be a sign of health problems that need treatment. It can also be a sign of emotional or relationship difficulties that may need to be addressed by a professional.

Not all male sexual problems are caused by ED. Other types of male sexual dysfunction include:

  • premature ejaculation
  • delayed or absent ejaculation
  • lack of interest in sex

What causes an erection?

An erection is the result of increased blood flow into your penis. Blood flow is usually stimulated by either sexual thoughts or direct contact with your penis.

When a man becomes sexually excited, muscles in their penis relax. This relaxation allows for increased blood flow through the penile arteries. This blood fills two chambers inside the penis called the corpora cavernosa. As the chambers fill with blood, the penis grows rigid. Erection ends when the muscles contract and the accumulated blood can flow out through the penile veins.

ED can occur because of problems at any stage of the erection process. For example, the penile arteries may be too damaged to open properly and allow blood in.

How Erections Work

During sexual arousal, nerves release chemicals that increase blood flow into the penis. Blood flows into two erection chambers in the penis, made of spongy muscle tissue (the corpus cavernosum). The corpus cavernosum chambers are not hollow.

During erection, the spongy tissues relax and trap blood. The blood pressure in the chambers makes the penis firm, causing an erection. When a man has an orgasm, a second set of nerve signals reach the penis and cause the muscular tissues in the penis to contract and blood is released back into a man's circulation and the erection comes down.

How is ED diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms and health history. They may do tests to determine if your symptoms are caused by an underlying condition. You should expect a physical exam where your doctor will listen to your heart and lungs, check your blood pressure, and examine your testicles and penis. They may also recommend a rectal exam to check your prostate. Additionally, you may need blood or urine tests to rule out other conditions.

Prostate disease and ED

Prostate cancer does not cause ED.

However, prostate surgery to remove the cancer and radiation therapy to treat prostate cancer can cause ED.

Treatment of non-cancerous, benign prostate disease can also cause the condition.

Symptoms

Men may not always successfully achieve an erection, and if this rarely happens, it is not considered a medical problem.

However, ED does not only refer to a complete inability to achieve an erect penis. Symptoms can also include struggling to maintain an erection for long enough to complete intercourse or an inability to ejaculate.

There are often also emotional symptoms, such as embarrassment, shame, anxiety, and a reduced interest in sexual intercourse.

A man is considered to have ED when these symptoms occur regularly.

How is erectile dysfunction diagnosed?

ED is usually easy to diagnose. Even if you are tempted to self-diagnose, you should still talk to your doctor. Your doctor will want to make sure that your ED is not a sign of other health problems.

Your doctor will probably start by asking you some questions and doing a physical exam. He or she may test samples of your blood and urine for diseases and disorders. Other tests may also be needed. Your doctor will determine which tests are right for you.

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