Erectile dysfunction can be an embarrassing problem, both when it happens to you and when you seek treatment. That embarrassment may cause some men to live with the problem quietly, without investigating why it happens. Worse still, they turn to the internet, where truth and myth mix indistinguishably. The web is filled with “miracle” cures and “the one simple thing” you need to do, most of which require you to spend money for little result. Let’s look at five big myths that surround ED, so you can start from an informed perspective and follow up without embarrassment.
Myth #1: Erectile dysfunction is a single problem
Erectile dysfunction itself varies between cases, so while one man may not be able to achieve an erection at all, another man may have an issue with an erection that comes and goes, and a third may not become hard enough for penetration during intercourse. The textbook definition of ED is the inability to get and keep an erection that’s sufficient to engage in sex so, as you can see, that covers a wide range of situations. If you notice that your erection isn’t as firm as it once was, but it’s not interfering with your enjoyment of sex, then, technically, you don’t have ED, though you may wish to follow up with me before it becomes an issue.
Myth #2: Erectile dysfunction is only an older man’s problem
While your chances for erectile dysfunction do increase with age, about 15% of the male population under the age of 40 say they experience ED on at least an occasional basis. Yet, in that same age group, about 25% of men are seeking treatment for ED. This may demonstrate how embarrassment affects accurate reporting of the ED problem, but it clearly shows that it’s not strictly an older man’s problem. Overall, however, only about one-third of men with ED seek medical treatment.
Myth #3: Erectile dysfunction is largely psychological
When you experience erectile dysfunction and worry about it happening again, then yes, the mental stress builds and may perpetuate the problem. However, ED often stems from physical problems, and more than one of these could combine. There’s typically a problem with blood flow in your penis when erections fail, and there are many factors that contribute to poor blood flow, such as medication, smoking, or alcohol use, as well as disorders including high blood pressure and diabetes.
Myth #4: Erectile dysfunction requires a specialist to treat
As a urologist, treating erectile dysfunction is part of my job. However, your primary care physician can also be a great place to start, particularly if you’re more comfortable speaking with them about sensitive issues. Family doctors are fully capable of starting the investigative work to determine the root causes of your ED. If these basic steps don’t produce results, or if your ED is accompanied by prostate or urination issues, ask your doctor for a referral to my office.
Myth #5: Viagra is the only treatment option for erectile dysfunction
It’s hard for anyone who watches television to miss the brand name Viagra. You may also be familiar with Levitra and Cialis from their aggressive marketing campaigns. Each of these medications is in a class called PDE5 inhibitors, and each addresses erectile dysfunction, though in slightly different ways. However, if PDE5 inhibitors don’t work for you, there are other options, such as an injectable drug called alprostadil. Changes to medications that contribute to ED may also be possible, and testosterone replacement therapy may help, if your testosterone levels are low. If your levels are in range, taking additional testosterone will, unfortunately, probably not help.