How to deal with erectile dysfunction

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Erectile dysfunction can be a stressful and difficult condition to deal with, for both men and women. Learn more about the causes of ED and what you can do about it.

dysfunctionThe diagnosis of erectile dysfunction (ED) is easy. Determining why ED is occurring, on the other hand, can be more difficult.

Identifying the cause of ED usually begins with a structured interview, followed by a physical examination and possibly laboratory testing. Determining whether a person suffers from ED rather than other sexual problems of ejaculation, orgasm or sexual desire is an essential first step.

Diagnosing erectile dysfunction

Once ED is established, a doctor will determine the nature of it. Finding the cause begins by asking many of the previous questions in order to obtain a medical, sexual and psychological history.

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These questions can be helpful in determining the severity of erectile dysfunction and revealing possible medical conditions or diseases that may be causing, or merely complicating, a man's ED. Sometimes, a doctor may also ask the patient to complete a questionnaire regarding his sexual function which can confirm the presence of erectile dysfunction. Men who have erectile dysfunction have a hard time getting or maintaining an erection.

Age and erectile dysfunction

Although ED is more common as men age, sexual dysfunction is not a normal part of the aging process. Erectile dysfunction can be caused by a wide range of physical, emotional, neurological, hormonal or drug-induced conditions. Depending on the cause of ED, it may require medical care. The condition can be stressful, scary and confusing for both partners, so men should take steps to deal and cope with the situation.

See next page for treatment options and tips on broaching the subject with your wife...

Treatment options for erectile dysfunction

The treatment options available for ED are dependent upon the cause of it. The doctor will review a patient's medical history, do a physical exam and run a couple of blood and urine tests to help with the diagnosis. If a patient is also experiencing low sexual desire, the doctor may test testosterone levels in his blood to check the health of the endocrine system.

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After getting lab results back, the doctor will discuss treatment options based on the underlying cause of the erectile dysfunction. Treatment options include:

  • Psychological, sexual or couples counseling
  • Oral medication - The three most common oral prescriptions for ED are sildenafil citrate (Viagra), tadalafil citrate (Cialis) and vardenafil citrate (Levitra)
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • External vacuum aids
  • Penile injections
  • Taking steps towards a healthier lifestyle - Most cases of ED that develop as men age are not a direct effect of aging, but are rather the result of a lifetime of unhealthy habits
  • Quitting smoking
  • Exercising more
  • Reducing stress
  • Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet that is high in fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains
  • Joining a support group for ED sufferers - Talk to the doctor about local groups that meet in your area or join an ED support group online. Communicating with others who suffer from the same problem can be a big help in learning to cope with ED.

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See next page for tips on broaching the subject with your wife...

Talking to your wife about erectile dysfunction

Often there is no problem about telling your partner because she has already noticed it. Frequently, the man needs to explain the situation to his wife, but he doesn't know how or which words to use. Good opening phrases include:

  • "There's something I need to talk to you about."
  • "I've been having a bit of trouble with my personal parts/intimate bits/sex organs." (Use whichever phrase feels comfortable for you.)
  • "The fact is that during the last few days/weeks/months, I haven't been able to get an erection/get it up/make love."
  • "I'm going to do something about it -- and I'd very much like your help."

Be flexible with your definition of having sex and being intimate. Maintain open lines of communication with your partner and learn new ways of satisfying each other's sexual and intimacy needs. Satisfying your partner orally or digitally during foreplay may help by taking the pressure off of performance and shifting the focus away from the act of intercourse.

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