While erectile dysfunction can affect men at any age, research shows that it impacts men more frequently as they age. In fact, it’s estimated that ED impacts about 10% of men for each decade of life, meaning 50% of men at 50 years old, and so on. While these numbers have caused many to think that erectile dysfunction is just part of getting older, that is simply not true. Often there are underlying health issues that can cause erectile dysfunction, and while ED may not be life-threatening the underlying cause could be serious. In order to provide a better understanding of ED and what causes it, we’re listing in this article many of the underlying issues and their additional risks. Our goal is for you to have both a better understanding of your erectile dysfunction and to know when to seek further medical care.
A brief overview of healthy sexual function will provide some clarity in understanding how certain medical conditions can cause erectile dysfunction. Arousal first starts in the brain, once stimulated the brain will send signals to the penis which causes an erection. It is these signals which cause the expansion of arteries which allow the penis to fill with blood. Once the penis is erect the veins will constrict in order to keep the blood within the penis until ejaculation. After which the veins reopen and the blood flows out and into the body. Clearly, healthy blood flow is crucial for healthy sexual functional, but a healthy neurological network is important as well since it is responsible for conveying the signals.
There are two primary disease categories that frequently play a role in causing erectile dysfunction. They are cardiovascular disease and metabolic disease.
Also referred to as heart disease, these diseases can affect both your heart and your blood vessels. They are often caused by aging, poor health choices, or genetics. Many of these diseases occur when the arteries become hardened, which is known as atherosclerosis. Plaque accumulation on the walls of the arteries is the cause for atherosclerosis and can dampen or even block the flow of blood. Additional cardiovascular diseases are arrhythmia, heart failure, valve issues, stroke, and heart attack.
These are diseases which alter your metabolism, which is the body’s process of turning food into energy. Metabolic diseases can be caused by similar factors to those that cause heart diseases such as lifestyle, aging, and genetics. A primary example of metabolic disease is diabetes. Diabetes is known to be a leading cause of erectile dysfunction and specifically causes early ED issues in younger men.
Disease’s Role in ED
This is a precursor to atherosclerosis. The endothelium is the name for the tissue which lines all of your blood vessels. An issue with your endothelium can affect blood flow and, therefore, create problems with achieving and erection.
Smooth Muscle Tissue
In order to achieve a healthy erection, the smooth muscle tissue must relax, which additionally allows for blood flow into the penis. There has not been significant research into the link between ED and smooth muscle tissue. However, issues with producing nitric oxide can make it difficult for this tissue to relax, which then reduces needed blood flow.
Autonomic neuropathy refers to nerve damage. Either of the above-mentioned types of disease can cause damage to nervous system, specifically the automatic functions where conscious thought is not required. The autonomic nervous system affects much more than just sexual function, it is responsible for the digestive system, heart function, and more. However, both of these diseases can interrupt the transfer of signals from the brain to their destination, which can cause either poor function or no function at all.
Cardiovascular and metabolic diseases can affect hormone levels. If either has a negative impact on a man’s testosterone level this can lead directly to erectile dysfunction issues.
A negative change in a man’s metabolism can make achieving erections more difficult. There are a number of medical conditions connected to your metabolism such as obesity, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. All of these can interfere with blood flow and lead to ED.
Your Next Steps
If you are having issues achieving erections or have decreased sexual performance, your first step should be to see a doctor. Both for a better understanding of the cause and to address the possibility of additional health concerns. There are a number of different options for the treatment of erectile dysfunction, including lifestyle changes and newer medical procedures such as PRP therapy which offers hope to men who have not had success with other treatment options.
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Understanding How Diseases Can Lead to Erectile Dysfunction