Recent medical research shows that, indeed, age can expose men to an increased risk of erectile dysfunction (ED). But this does not imply that it is a natural feature of aging. Least of all something that unfortunate older men just have to accept and learn to coexist with. On the contrary, a variety of treatments are available today. Plus, an accurate check-up might reveal the underlying causes of your struggles, and improve your overall health.
As you might know, an “erectile dysfunction” is what happens when you cannot get or maintain a sufficiently firm erection for satisfying sexual intercourse. In other words, ED can imply either being unable to get an erection at all or having erections that aren’t as firm or long-lasting as you—or your partner—might desire. Experts estimate that, at any given time, 30 million American men are going through some form of ED. As a direct consequence of erectile dysfunction, your sex drive might also be compromised.
Is ED a common problem, or am I the only one?
In general, experts tend to agree that ED is the most widespread sexual dysfunction among men. A Sex Med. publication showed, in 2018, that 30% of men suffered from it at some point in their lives. Also, there is no threshold age when it comes to erectile dysfunction. Men as young as 20 can go through it. Journal of Sexual Medicine’s researchers demonstrated that 26% of all men suffering from ED were under the age of 40.
Thus, ED can occur at any age. But it is also true that it becomes more widespread as men age. It has been calculated that, by the time a man is in his 40s, the risk of experiencing ED rises about 40%. After 40, the risk factor increases by circa 10% for each subsequent decade of life. Thus, at 50 a man has 1 possibility out of 2 of having experienced it. In your 60s, there is a 60% chance for ED to occur, and so on.
Is ED inevitable after a certain age?
All that these studies demonstrate, though, is that age is a risk factor that should be taken into account when diagnosing a case of ED. By no means this implies that erectile dysfunction is a natural, inevitable consequence of aging. On the contrary, healthy and happy sex life is what’s normal, at any age. Of course, you might have heard that “you are just getting old”. And you might have been told that it is time to hang up your sex drive and move on to activities more in tune with your age.
But there are two solid reasons why you shouldn’t fall for this narrative. First of all, as of today several types of treatment are available to men experiencing ED. Chances are that, with a bit of consistency and patience, you will be able to overcome the issue. Secondly, talking to your doctor and undergoing a check-up might reveal the underlying physical causes of your struggles. Then, you might not only solve your ED but also avert the risk of more threatening health issues.
What treatments are available for ED?
As for the first point, modern medicine offers a variety of tailored solutions for treating ED. These include medications, natural remedies, and, in some cases, surgery.
The first road that you might want to go down is pharmaceutical treatment. Oral medications for ED are well-known for their efficacy. Virtually, they are always effective at improving sexual function. The most common on the market include sildenafil (brand name Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), and vardenafil (Levitra and Staxyn). All of them begin to work within 15-30 minutes from consumption, but the duration of the effects may vary considerably. whereas Viagra is effective for about 4 hours, Cialis is known to operate for as long as 36 hours. However, these medications cannot be used in combination with nitrates-based medications, such as nitroglycerin, as the combination might lead to dangerously low blood pressure.
A valid alternative to the use of pills is the assumption of non-oral medications. Usually administered through an injection, they are helpful for men who cannot take oral drugs, or for whom they are not appropriate or effective. Non-oral medications include alprostadil, papaverine/phentolamine (BiMix) and a mix of papaverine, phentolamine, and alprostadil (TriMix). These medications automatically cause an erection in 40-60% of patients, without the need for sexual stimulation.
Under the category of non-oral medications falls also the assumption of testosterone. It is useful for those men who experience ED as a consequence of low levels of testosterone in their blood. This testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) can be administered via injections, wearable patches, or dermal gel.
Of course, you might be wary of pharmaceutical drugs. Luckily, natural alternatives are also available, such as dietary supplements or over-the-counter pills. The most common are DHEA, ginseng, L-arginine, L-carnitine, and yohimbe. In particular, a 2017 study proved that patients with low levels of L-arginine were more prone to developing ED. These remedies are widely available, but it is important to keep in mind that none of them has received the FDA’s approval as a treatment for ED. At any rate, they might be used to corroborate other forms of therapy.
Is surgery the right choice for me?
The most stubborn forms of ED might benefit from the use of penile devices. The most recent technologies span from penis pumps and cock rings to vacuum erection devices. . The most severe cases might call for surgical intervention, consisting of the implant of a penile prosthesis. This latter solution is particularly appreciated for restoring spontaneity in sexual intercourse and is particularly recommended for men whose ED is related to diabetes or vascular diseases.
All of these methods are valid to confront ED. However, keep in mind that your overall state of health will affect the quality and duration of your erections. Therefore, the classic recommendations to eat clean, exercise, stop smoking and avoid excessive drinking are always valid. Unhealthy habits might disrupt your overall well-being, leading to a worsening of ED symptoms.
Explaining the correlation between age and ED
As stated above, ED becomes more and more likely when you reach your 50s. However, age might not be the primary culprit. Other age-related health conditions may be the real root cause for the development of ED symptoms.
The most common physical causes of ED
One of the most common concurrent causes of ED are heart diseases, and in particular, atherosclerosis, which brings about a hardening of the arteries. In simple words, the lining of the arteries progressively hardens as age advances. The consequence is that blood vessels cannot expand easily to let increased flows of blood pass through, as is the case when the penis produces an erection. If high levels of cholesterol are also present, they might further restrict blood flow.
Hypertension is another co-factor in ED. It occurs when the heart pumps the blood through blood vessels at a higher pressure than it is supposed to, potentially damaging them and leading to heart attacks and strokes. Strokes themselves can cause neurological damage, which in turn can cause or contribute to the onset of ED.
Other triggering factors of erectile dysfunction are diabetes (as the high levels of sugar in the bloodstream may damage blood vessels) and cancer, either as a primary cause or as a consequence of medical treatments. Finally, damages to the body’s nerves —such as spinal cord injuries or multiple sclerosis—might result in ED.
Lifestyle-related risk factors
Certain elements of your lifestyle might also be to blame for the insurgence of ED. Depression and anxiety, together with difficulties in your relationship or performance anxiety, are closely connected to a heightened risk of erectile dysfunction. Furthermore, certain antidepressants include, among their side effects, the occurrence of ED. In this case, it is important to be open with your doctor, who might be able to adjust the doses to fit your needs or change your prescription straight away.
In addition to these pathologies, excessive weight and obesity, lack of exercise and the abuse of alcohol and cigarettes and other tobacco products might also be the source of your issues.
Should I seek treatment? In conclusion, erectile dysfunction is nothing you should feel guilty for experiencing. It is a common condition among men of any age, and it might be a valid indicator that something is not working properly in your body. For this reason, it is important to trust your doctor and share what you are going through. For sure, it is not an easy task to trust someone on such a delicate matter. But if you overcome this obstacle, you will most certainly find a treatment that works for you. And, most importantly, you will be able to address the underlying causes of erectile dysfunction before they become a serious threat to your health.