Erectile Dysfunction: What is it?

Dr Matthew Cullen, Psychiatrist, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney

The commonest way that sexual dysfunction in men is manifest is via impotence, which is an inability to achieve, or maintain, an erection. The cause of impotency really splits quite neatly into psychological and physical.

Older men, with the reduction in testosterone, tend to have a greater risk of developing impotency, because a healthy testosterone level is an important requirement to maintain sexual function. The other element in older men is that the vasculature can become impacted as one becomes older. So blood supply to various vital organs can be impacted.

In younger men, the cause of sexual dysfunction and impotency is usually psychological, or sometimes people take certain drugs, which may have a negative impact on their sexual function.

What is the treatment for erectile dysfunction?

Regardless, one of the well known treatments for impotency, both in younger and older individuals, is medicines such as Viagra or Cialis. These have been around for 20 or so years, and are very effective treatments for impotency. Viagra, for example, leads to increased sexual response, and an increased ability to maintain an erection via the opening of the vasculature in the male penis. So treatment via Viagra, or Cialis for that matter, is effective, it’s fairly immediate onset, usually within 30 to 60 minutes, and the sexual function, and the ability to perform is much improved in those people who have impotence.

A note of caution though, the use of these drugs in someone who has sexual dysfunction secondary to taking illicit medicines, drugs such as cocaine or amphetamines, should be avoided, because there is a risk of a drug-drug interaction, which could be harmful.

Last Reviewed: 19/08/2020

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