Men’s Health: warning signs can save lives
From time to time, most men experience occasional episodes of erectile dysfunction (ED). It’s a common problem that affects 18 million men in the United States every year — and their significant others.
But evidence is mounting that the inability to obtain or maintain an erection is often a warning signal linking ED with other more serious conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It can also contribute to self-esteem issues, anxiety, a depressed mood, and tension within a relationship.
In one study, 65 percent of men who experienced a heart attack had erectile dysfunction and no history of heart disease. Additionally, research has shown about three years after the first signs of ED, men may experience their first heart attack.
Because the penile arteries are much smaller than arteries of the heart, evidence of cardiovascular disease may be displayed first as ED symptoms, long before other symptoms occur. As research continues to demonstrate the link between ED symptoms and cardiovascular disease, any man with ED should see a doctor to be screened for heart disease — and hopefully avert more serious cardiovascular issues.
ED is also a common complication of diabetes. Up to an estimated 85 percent of men with diabetes may experience ED. High blood sugar can permanently damage the nerves and blood vessels responsible for erections. Also, poor blood sugar control can inhibit the release of a chemical known as nitric oxide. Low levels of nitric oxide can limit the blood flow to the penis that is required to achieve or maintain an erection.
The good news is many treatment options are available for successfully treating ED, even if the condition is caused by diabetes or heart disease. Recent advances and treatment methods have changed the way this condition is treated. Some treatment options offer a temporary solution, while others, including a minimally invasive procedure, can provide a permanent way to resolve the problem. Options may include oral medications, injection therapy, vacuum-assisted devices, or a penile implant.
Men experiencing ED should seek treatment from a urologist who can determine the cause and conduct appropriate screenings to rule out heart disease. Urologists are doctors that specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of ED. It’s important to have a candid discussion with your urologist to determine the best course of treatment to help regain and optimize your health, well-being, and intimacy in your life.
Anand Shridharani, MD, urologist with Academic Urologists at Erlanger, specializes in men’s reproductive and sexual health. His major clinical interests include ED, Peyronie’s disease, penile prostheses, male reproductive health, and vasectomy reversal. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 423-778-2564.