Did you know that your pharmacist can sometimes help with sexual health-related issues? Speak to your pharmacist in total confidentiality if you are experiencing these types of problems.
A number of men encounter erectile dysfunction at some time or another. However, there are solutions, depending on the gravity and source of the problem.
WHAT IS ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION?
Erectile dysfunction is the inability to develop or maintain an erection sufficient to have a satisfactory sexual performance.
When a man is sexually aroused, nerve signals are transmitted from the brain to the penis. The blood vessels of the penis relax and expand which allows for a larger flow of blood to enter the penis. It is this inflow of blood that leads to the expansion of the penis and to an erection making sexual intercourse possible.
The mechanics behind an erection might appear quite simple. In fact, an erection is the result of a complex process in which the brain, blood vessels, nerves and specific hormones all play a role. Should one of these elements fail, the penis may lack an adequate blood supply and erectile dysfunction will result.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION?
Erectile dysfunction can be caused or exacerbated by one or several of the following factors:
- diabetes (35% to 50% of male diabetics experience erectile dysfunction)
- kidney diseases
- neurological conditions (such as multiple sclerosis)
- atherosclerosis, and
- hormonal disorders (such as a testosterone deficiency)
- sedentary lifestyle (lack of physical exercise)
- lack of sleep
- excessive alcohol use
SURGERY AND TRAUMA:
- prostate cancer surgery
- injury to the genital organs, pelvis, bladder or spinal cord
- antidepressants or antipsychotics
- stress, anxiety
- low self-esteem
- previous sexual trauma
WHAT ARE THE AVAILABLE TREATMENTS?
First, it is necessary to establish the cause (or causes) of the erectile difficulties. The problem could be psychological or physical, and the treatment will be chosen accordingly. Psychotherapy can be beneficial, especially in the absence of physical causes.
There are different treatment strategies to deal with erectile dysfunction, each of which have their benefits and inconveniences.
There are prescription medications in tablet format to be taken as needed before sexual activity. They are called phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitors.They work at the level of blood vessels to facilitate the inflow of blood to allow an erection to occur.
This mechanism is made up of a pump, a plastic cylinder and a tension ring. The penis is placed in the cylinder in which a vacuum is created to help draw blood into the penis to bring about an erection. A tension ring is then applied at the base of the penis to maintain the erection.
The transurethral treatment consists in inserting a minuscule suppository or cream into the urethra using an applicator. The medication absorbed in this manner brings about the relaxation of the muscles of the penis, increasing the inflow of blood to the erectile tissue.
This form of treatment consists in injecting a medication in the penis with a fine needle before sexual intercourse. The medication acts the same way as the ones delivered by transurethral administration (see above).
Penile implants replace the erectile tissue of the penis. There are two types of implants: the semi-rigid (malleable) prosthesis and the inflatable mechanisms (hydraulic). These two types of implants require surgery and are used as a last resort.
Vascular surgery is generally available for men whose blood circulation in the pelvic area is partly cut off because of an injury. The procedure aims to restore blood flow to allow erections to occur naturally.
If erectile dysfunction occurs in an individual with a testosterone deficiency, then a supplement of this hormone may be prescribed. There are different means of administration: oral (e.g. capsule), topical (e.g. gel or patch), subcutaneous (e.g. implant), inhaled or injectable.
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT ORAL TREATMENTS
Oral medications for erectile dysfunction are generally effective and safe. However, their effectiveness is not guaranteed and their effects vary from one person to another and even from one day to the next. A number of factors can influence the response to treatment, including the causes of erectile dysfunction.
Generally, these medications must be taken 25 to 90 minutes prior to sexual activity. The start and duration of action vary for each person. Some medications can be taken daily, whether or not sexual activity is planned. It is important to note that sexual stimulation is necessary in order for the medication to take effect.
Side effects are usually transient and include, for example, headaches, backaches, redness (especially in the face), digestive issues, nasal congestion and dizziness. Alcohol consumption can worsen these side effects and should therefore be avoided; additionally, it compromises erectile capacity.
Not all medications for erectile dysfunction are suitable for all men. It is important to speak to a healthcare professional about the contraindications, warnings and the precautions to take before deciding to use one of these products. Certain factors such as age, health, medical history or taking certain medications can impede treatment.
Don’t hesitate to speak to your pharmacist for additional information about erectile dysfunction and its treatment.