While an erection may seem simple enough, it’s a surprisingly complex process that involves several different areas of your health. This also means that a problem in any one of these areas can have an overall impact, often leading to erectile dysfunction (ED).
As men’s health and urology experts, the team here at Arizona Urology understands better than most what causes erectile dysfunction, and we want to share some of this information with you here.
ED by the numbers
We understand that you’re frustrated with your ED, and it may provide you with some comfort to know you’re not alone. The prevalence of ED in men in the United States is high, and it corresponds with age to a large degree — 40% of men in their 40s report problems with ED, and 70% of men in their 70s experience the same issue.
The complexity of an erection
Another important point to understand is that getting and maintaining an erection is a complex process that involves your:
- Central and peripheral nervous system
- Cardiovascular health
- Mental and emotional health
An erection starts in your brain and is usually triggered by a thought or sensation. When your brain registers this thought, it sends a signal to the arteries in your penis to allow more blood in. At the same time, your brain signals your veins to close, trapping the blood in your penis to create the erection.
There are any number of issues that can affect these signals and processes, and we review some of the more common below.
Age and failing sexual function
As we mentioned earlier, the incidence of ED is often tied to age — the older you are, the more problems you may encounter. One of the primary reasons for this is insufficient blood flow to your penis. Over time, plaque builds up in your arteries, which can hamper circulation, preventing your penis from getting the blood volume it needs to achieve or maintain an erection.
In addition to poor blood flow, age can also impact your peripheral nerve health, leaving the nerves in your penis less sensitive and slower to communicate.
Lastly, all men experience a natural decline in testosterone production as they age, which can affect libido.
High levels of stress and/or anxiety can often lead to ED. When this happens, the problem can become a vicious circle in which your frustration creates added performance anxiety, which only exacerbates your ED.
As well, depression is linked with ED in what researchers have found is a two-way street — ED can lead to depression, and depression can affect sexual function.
Physical health and medications
ED can also be caused by physical problems, such as injury to your penis or conditions like Peyronie’s disease, in which scar tissue builds up in your penis.
Men who undergo treatment for prostate cancer commonly experience ED as a side effect. The same is true of certain medications, such as antidepressants, blood pressure drugs, and appetite suppressants.
Lastly, we want to address lifestyle factors that can contribute to or cause ED, such as:
- Lack of exercise
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Drug use
- Being overweight
Each of these factors can impact the chain of events that need to take place for an erection to occur, whether it’s in your brain or in your blood.
Treating your ED
The good news is that there are several different effective treatments for ED, including medications, injections, and penile implants.
These treatments, however, only address the symptom that is ED and not the underlying cause. In most cases, we prefer to perform a thorough analysis of your ED so that we can identify and target the root cause for best results.
If you want to find a solution for your ED, contact one of our locations in Goodyear, Glendale, Gilbert, or Phoenix, Arizona, to get started.