Often defined as the inability to maintain an erection firm enough for satisfying action between the sheets, erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common problem experienced by a third of men over the age of 40. Research often cites social habits such as smoking and alcohol as some of the culprits that contribute to ED. Though life-altering, ED itself is not fatal – but can indicate a more serious condition like heart disease.
30% of men over 40 will experience erectile dysfunction.
A Health Case
Quick biology recap: Coronary heart disease takes place when plaque builds up and blocks the arteries, reducing blood flow to the heart and impacting the functioning of blood vessels. This restriction usually hits the blood vessels of the penis first. However, it’s easy to overlook the medical implications at first. “ED has negative psychological outcomes for men. They see it as humiliating or something that lessens their status as a man. The men who visit my practice often think they’re not worthy of attention and that their ED is just a normal part of the ageing process,” explains Dr Heather Blaylock, a medical doctor with a special interest in sexual health. She adds that the partners of men who suffer from ED may feel unattractive, unwanted or guilty.
S Is For Support
“Partner support during treatment is also very important for better outcomes,” urges Dr Blaylock. If you’re not sure what that looks like, she gives this advice on how to be there for your significant other:
- Encourage your partner to see a doctor so that they can be screened for underlying disease and potentially prevent a critical cardiac event in the future.
- Occasional difficulty maintaining an erection is totally normal. However, ongoing and untreated erectile dysfunction can impact a man’s self-esteem – and his personal relationships. Make extra effort to bolster his self-worth.
- The silver lining: ED meds have evolved and there are plenty of options available. “Treatment options include a group of drugs known as PDE5-inhibitors. These include tadalafil, sildenafil and vardenafil. PDE5 medication not only improves sexual function and satisfaction but also improves the relationship,” says Dr Blaylock. But be prepared for the possible side effects too, which may include flushing, headache, nasal congestion and indigestion.
- Newer generic medications that have made the treatment of ED more accessible and affordable to more South African men are also available.
- Normal sexual stimulation is still required for arousal, even with your partner on ED medication.
With this info in mind, remember to broach the subject with kindness and understanding. Your partner feels vulnerable, so be sensitive.
“Everyone wants a cure but there is no magic cure. However, men should not suffer in silence as there are many safe options available,”