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How Common Is ED? — an article on the Smart Living Network
January 11, 2008 at 4:17 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

How Common Is ED?


What Is Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is defined as the inability to achieve or sustain an erection long enough to complete sexual intercourse. It can vary in severity, with some men being unable to ever achieve an erection, whereas others are unable to sustain it. For some it is only an occasional problem, for others it is constant.

Who Is Affected by ED?

Achieving and maintaining an erection requires several factors to function well together. A man must have healthy arteries, muscles, and fibrous tissue in his penis for the mechanical aspect of erection. His nervous system must also be functioning properly so as to transmit impulses from his brain to his genitals. An important part of this chain of communication is nitric oxide, a signaling molecule which acts in the penis to produce an erection. Thus, anything which will interfere with any step of this process can result in ED. The most common causes include arteriosclerosis, hypertension, diabetes, or simple age. Any disease which interferes with the cardiovascular system, such as arteriosclerosis, will decrease blood flow to the penis and can lead to ED. There is a strong correlation between the severity of the obstruction and the erectile impairment. Some doctors suggest that men who suddenly develop ED should be evaluated for arteriosclerosis. Although the mechanism is not well understood, hypertension can also cause ED. Research suggests that men with hypertension may not produce as much nitric oxide as healthy men, and this may ultimately be why hypertension can result in ED. Also, many of the medicines used to treat hypertension can cause ED. Uncontrolled diabetes damages the nerves, especially in the extremities. When this happens in the penis, it results in less stimulation and poorer neuronal communication. Often, this results in ED. In addition, men with diabetes are at high risk of developing arteriosclerosis and hypertension, both of which can also contribute to the problem. Finally, aging itself can cause ED. As men get older, the tissues in their penis weaken, making an erection difficult to sustain. There is also some speculation that older men have lower nitric oxide levels. Furthermore, older men are at increased risk of developing arteriosclerosis, hypertension, and diabetes.

How Common is ED?

Most men will experience episodes of erectile difficulties at least once in their lives. The problem is more common once a man hits forty-five, but some men develop problems even at younger ages. Researchers estimate that between twenty to thirty million men have ED in the United States alone. It is difficult to get accurate numbers since many men are unfortunately ashamed of their condition and do not seek treatment. Even as it stands, ED occurs five times more frequently as obesity and ten times as often as diabetes. Fortunately, it is very treatable.

Common Treatments

For some men, ED can be treated through simple lifestyle changes. Exercising regularly, herbal remedies, eating healthy foods, and stopping smoking may be all that is needed.


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