India is said to be the impotence capital of the world. Yet most of us shy away from the word erectile dysfunction when we hear it and avoid indulging in conversations around the same. Impotence also commonly called erectile dysfunction is a lot more common among men than assumed. Erectile dysfunction is the inability to achieve or maintain a penile erection which leads to unsatisfactory sexual intercourse. In India, people usually do not perceive erectile dysfunction as a medical disorder but as sexual incompetence and most often it becomes the reason for disturbance of balance and harmony in a relationship leading to self-doubt and depression. Men who have erectile dysfunction usually avoid accepting the condition and start avoiding intimacy completely which might lead to frustration in them. It affects about 30 per cent of men above the age of 40 years and 20 per cent across age groups experience difficulties in getting/maintaining an erection. If an individual is diagnosed with ED, the first step is to reach out to a doctor as it can be a sign of underlying health problem. Heart diseases, clogged blood vessels, high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, anxiety, stress, depression and lifestyle habits like excess smoking and alcohol consumption are few of the common causes of erectile dysfunction.
A recent Italian study revealed that Covid-19 increases risk of developing erectile dysfunction (ED) by nearly six times. Diabetes, obesity and smoking which increase the risk of contracting Covid-19 are also the risk factors for ED. The data estimates that men with a history of coronavirus will have 5.66 times higher chances of developing erectile dysfunction. Researchers involved in the study have said that this problem could be short term or long term.
While erectile dysfunction does affect men and is generally considered A Man’s Thing, however, it also impacts the women in a relationship. As per the findings of a recent survey, 56 per cent of men would like to discuss erectile dysfunction with their partners to fix their relationship while 28 per cent of women might consider separation if their partner does not take any corrective measures for erectile dysfunction.
How ED can be treated?
ED can be treated at any age; treatment depends on your overall health and the underlying cause of the problem. Regardless of lifestyle changes, there are other significant methods involved in curing the condition. These include oral tablets, injections, vacuum devices, implants placed surgically, and testosterone replacement therapy:
- Injectables: Specific penile injections make the blood vessels in penis expand. This boosts the blood flow in the penis, thereby helping in having a sustained erection.
- Vacuum Devices: A vacuum erection device (VED) is an external pump with a band on it that a man with erectile dysfunction can use it to get and maintain an erection.
- Penile Implant Surgery: Penile implants are devices placed inside the penis to allow men with ED to get an erection and are recommended in case other treatments don’t work.
- Testosterone replacement therapy: Inadequate production of testosterone is not a common cause of erectile dysfunction. But, when ED does occur due to decreased testosterone production, testosterone replacement therapy may improve the problem.
Alternatively, there are other ways your doctor may help you treat it and these may include complementary or alternative therapies such as couple counselling or psychosexual counselling. However, ensure that you consult a doctor before availing any of these options for the correct guidance and treatment.
The author is Consultant Andrologist, NU Hospitals and NU Fertility, Bangalore.