Man to Man: The Facts on Impotence

Man to Man: The Facts on Impotence

Even in an age where couples take to national television to reveal their sexual secrets, the topic of impotence often is off-limits. Men do not want to talk about it. It's too embarrassing, they think, something that does not happen to "real men."

But the truth is that up to 30 million men suffer with erectile dysfunction (E.D.) and it can successfully be treated in most cases. Rather than hiding the situation, or suffering through the pain it can cause in a relationship, men who are having problems need to consult a doctor.

In 85 to 90 percent of cases, the cause of the condition is physical. Erections occur when a man becomes sexually aroused and blood vessels that supply the penis relax, allowing more blood to fill the organ. If there is any interference with the process, impotence may occur.

In some cases, physical disease or disorder in the lungs, liver, kidneys, heart, nerves, arteries, or veins can lead to a problem. In others, surgery or trauma from an injury may be the cause.

Antidepressants, antihistamines and medications to treat high blood pressure, pain and prostate cancer also can sometimes be to blame. Or an unhealthy lifestyle can lead to impotence.

Men who struggle with chronic use of alcohol, marijuana or other drugs are at risk, as are heavy smokers and those who regularly eat food with high fat content. Though myths tied to the disease lead us to believe the problem is, "all in your head," only 10 to 15 percent of cases are linked to psychological problems with stress, anxiety or depression.

Once the causes are eliminated, regular sexual activity can resume. But until a doctor is consulted, it is impossible to determine a solution. Unfortunately, it is estimated that only 10 percent of men seek treatment.

By not meeting with a professional, men often are left to buy into the abundance of misconceptions surrounding impotence, such as it being a natural part of aging or a condition without a cure.

Those who do seek help will meet with a doctor who generally will conduct a physical exam, followed by basic laboratory tests.

Though the drug Viagra has received the most attention of late, there are a variety of ways to treat the condition. Among the treatments are:

Other options include surgery and penile implants.

Even if an initial treatment does not solve the problem, doctors can continue to work with a patient to find an answer. But nothing will be resolved until a person makes the initial doctor's appointment.

For more information on osteopathic medicine or referral information, please contact the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) at 1-800-621-1773, ext. 8252, or visit the AOA's Web site at http://www.osteopathic.org .

About the author: Dr. Michael K. Murphy, retired as a Navy Captain, is a board certified osteopathic family physician and served as the dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery, University of Osteopathic Medicine and Health Sciences in Des Moines, Iowa USA.

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