It's estimated that 30 million American men experience erectile dysfunction, or ED. It's a condition that has spawned an entire category of drugs (not to mention paranoia-inducing online ads). Once a man begins experiencing ED regularly, are medications — a temporary remedy, not a cure — his only recourse? Is erectile dysfunction curable?
Is erectile dysfunction curable?
So, is erectile dyfunction curable? Or are you doomed to a lifetime of medication? Yes, in many cases, erectile dysfunction is curable. First, it's important to determine what's causing it. Doctors consider erectile dysfunction a symptom, not a disease in itself.
One of the biggest myths about erectile dysfunction is that it's inevitable as men age. Doctors say that's not the case. In fact, the U.S. National Institutes of Health are on record as saying that ED is not a natural part of aging.
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According to a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2014, erectile dysfunction can be linked to the development of heart disease, and making heart-healthy lifestyle changes can be enough to cure ED without drugs. "An erection is a hydraulic event dependent on the dilation of blood vessels that carry blood to the penis," said study author Dr. Gary Wittert. "These blood vessels are similar to those that supply blood to the heart muscle." Maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular exercise, quitting smoking and keeping blood pressure in check can improve the ability of those vessels to dilate everywhere.
Depression has also been linked to ED — one study found that 82 percent of men with erectile dysfunction also reported depression. That's because an erection starts in the brain: When there aren't enough brain chemicals to stimulate an erection, ED can result. Doctors can recommend or adjust antidepressants or refer patients to counseling, which can ameliorate depression and make erectile dysfunction curable.
In rare cases, erectile dysfunction can be caused by nerve damage or injury. A urologist can run tests to diagnose those conditions if necessary.
If lifestyle changes or injury aren't to blame, medications are an effective remedy for ED. The current class of drugs are called phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors (PDE5i’s), which work by inhibiting an enzyme that prevents erections. According to an analysis of about 150 trials published in European Urology, Viagra, Cialis and Levitra are about 60 to 80 percent effective.