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The hard truth about erectile dysfunction

If there is one part of the male anatomy tha a man tends to pay the most attention to, it’s his penis.

And when this part of his body has let him down by not being able to achieve an erection, there are also all kinds of myths and falsehoods as to why it is happening.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) or impotence is the inability to get and then maintain an erection sufficient enough for sexual intercourse.

Up to 30 million American men get ED but most men usually are reluctant to talk about their ED problems with other men. Because it is often kept quiet, there tends to be some misconceptions about this condition.

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Any man who is experiencing ED for more than a month should seek the advice of a doctor such as a urologist who specializes in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. This will be his best option for successfully treating ED to get back his sex life.

To dispel the rumors and innuendos swarming around this topic, here are six common myths often associated with erectile dysfunction that is time to clear up:

1. Myth: You’re older so just learn to live with it

Fact: Yes, ED is much more common in older men but that doesn’t mean a man has to live with it — and no man should want to.

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About 50% of men over the age of 50 will experience ED and by the time a man reaches 80 years of age, up to 90% of men will have had ED at one time or another.

Older men experience ED more frequently than younger men mainly because erections primarily involve the blood vessels having good blood flow. As a man ages, there can be conditions blocking blood flow to the penis such as atherosclerosis or diabetes, which could be the contributor to ED.

2. Myth: It’s embarrassing to get ED but it really isn’t that dangerous

Fact: The inability to achieve an erection in and of itself may not be dangerous but it can be an early warning sign of other underlying health conditions that can be dangerous.

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Diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis, and even neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease are all possible health conditions resulting in ED.

This is why it is important for any man with ED to make an appointment with his doctor. A thorough physical exam not only will help identify why ED is happening but it could also discover a bigger health condition needing attention right away.

3. Myth: Men who have ED are not interested in sex

Fact: ED can have a multitude of factors that are involved in why a man is having trouble achieving an erection. It’s possible he may not be interested in sex or find his partner attractive but it’s far more likely to be due to other issues such as:

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  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Stress, anxiety, or depression
  • Smoking or consuming an excessive amount of alcohol
  • Medications including drugs for high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression
  • Heart issues such as high blood pressure and atherosclerosis
  • Diabetes – between 35% and 50% of men with diabetes experience ED
  • Neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis
  • Certain types of prostate and bladder surgery

4. Myth: Taking pills is the only option for treating ED

Fact: There are several FDA-approved medications specifically for ED treatment which are effective for many men. However, there are other ways to deal with ED besides medications.

First, a doctor needs to determine what is the cause of ED. If it is a result of a health condition like high blood pressure or heart disease, then treating those conditions can often help resolve ED.

If ED is due to a medication a man is taking, ask the doctor if there is another medication that can be taken instead.

Making healthier lifestyle choices is another effective way for a man to help alleviate ED. Losing weight, increasing exercise, reducing alcohol intake or quitting smoking can significantly improve sexual performance, helping with erection problems.

If ED is related to an anxiety issue, then psychotherapy can be an alternative option to treat the problem. A man should find a trained counselor with experience in this area of treatment by contacting the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT).

There are also mechanical vacuum devises and surgical treatments that may be useful for some men.

5. Myth: Taking herbal medicines or supplements for erectile dysfunction is the best treatment

Fact: Resorting to taking herbal supplements for ED is risky. Supplements are not regulated making them susceptible to possibly containing dangerous compounds or contaminants that could interact with medications a man may be taking.

There can also be potential side effects of taking an herbal supplement for ED that could have serious health ramifications. It is not advised to take an herbal supplement without discussing this with a doctor first.

6. Myth: Younger men do not get ED

Fact: ED is often thought of as an old man’s condition, but young men can and do develop erectile problems.

When older men get ED it is more likely due to issues like diabetes, hypertension and heart conditions. In young men though, ED could be the result of several reasons — physical trauma such as a sports injury of getting hit in the wrong area, or it could also be a result of a sexual injury.

Young men who engage in heavy cigarette smoking, drinking or drug use can also experience ED. In fact, daily marijuana smokers are three times more likely to have ED compared to men who don’t use it at all.

Dr. David Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel’s Medical A-Team Learn more at roboticoncology.com. Visit Dr. Samadi’s blog at SamadiMD.com. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest and Facebook.

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