The Physical Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

What is erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a condition in which a man cannot get an erection sufficient for sexual activity. It is a common condition affecting approximately 10% of men aged 40-70 with the rates increasing in older men. 

What actually happens when you get an erection?

When you are sexually aroused, nerve impulses from your brain cause muscles in the penis to relax. This allows the penis to fill with blood. When the penis fills with blood it becomes firmer, larger and erect. 

What causes erectile dysfunction?

A healthy erection needs the nerves and blood vessels that supply the penis to be intact. Damage to these structures can contribute to ED.

As you age, your blood vessels typically become narrower increasing your likelihood of developing erectile dysfunction. Medical conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease can hasten this process.

Nerve damage can occur as a result of illnesses like diabetes, or through direct injury to the nerves. An enlarged prostate or excessive levels of cycling can put pressure on the nerves that supply the penis causing erectile dysfunction.

There is also a psychological element to erectile dysfunction. It can be harder to get an erection if you are depressed, anxious or stressed. This is the most common cause of erectile dysfunction in younger men. 

Other causes of erectile dysfunction include hormone imbalances. This could be a consequence of medications such as antidepressants, or a more serious hormonal disorder, such as testosterone deficiency. If you are concerned about your hormone levels or drug side effects, you should speak to a doctor for further advice. 

Lifestyle changes for erectile dysfunction

Many of the physical causes of erectile dysfunction can be helped by lifestyle changes. Maintaining a healthy weight, increasing exercise and eating a balanced diet help to reduce your chance of developing erectile dysfunction. These changes are also protective against a range of health conditions that can lead to erectile dysfunction later on such as diabetes and high blood pressure. 

If you believe your erectile dysfunction is caused by cycling, you can take a break until you recover, or reduce the amount of cycling you do. You can also wear padded cycling shorts and try a different saddle that reduces pressure on your perineum (the area between your testicles and anus). It may also help to raise your handlebars slightly and lower your saddle so that your knees are still slightly bent at the lowest point when pedalling. 

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How to treat erectile dysfunction

There are a number of different medications available to help with erectile dysfunction. Currently, there are four medications licenced for use in the UK: Viagra (sildenafil), Cialis (tadalafil), Levitra (vardenafil) and Spedra (avanafil). 

How does treatment for ED work?

Erectile dysfunction medications work by relaxing the blood vessels that supply the penis. This improves the blood flow to the penis so you can get an erection. 

Choosing an erectile dysfunction medication

There are a number of different erectile dysfunction medications to choose from. They are all very similar, but there are some differences that might help you choose between them. 

The biggest difference is the cost of generic and branded drugs. The branded drugs for erectile dysfunction in the UK are Viagra, Levitra, Cialis and Spedra. These drugs contain the same active ingredient as the generic versions, but they are often much more expensive. 

Sildenafil is the generic version of Viagra, generic Levitra is called vardenafil and tadalafil is generic Cialis. Spedra is the newest of these drugs and is still under patent. This means that there is no generic version of Spedra available on the market yet. 

Aside from the cost, each medication has its own unique advantages. Viagra is the oldest erectile dysfunction medication and therefore also has the most side effects. However, Viagra is the only erectile dysfunction medication that is available without a prescription. It is sold under the brand name ‘Viagra Connect’. Only the 50mg dose is available over the counter, so if you wanted a different dose, you would still need a prescription from your doctor. 

Most erectile dysfunction medications have to be taken 30-60 minutes before you want to have sex. For men who want to have more spontaneous sex, there are two options available. Spedra is the fastest-acting erectile dysfunction drug on the market. It can work in as little as 15 minutes. 

Another option is to take a daily dose of Cialis (tadalafil). Low doses of Cialis  (2.5mg and 5mg tablets) can be taken as a daily dose. This helps you build up the level of the drug in your body so you can have an erection without needing to plan to take a pill just before. 

The unique benefit of Levitra is that it is available in an orodispersible form. This means that it can be taken as a tablet that dissolves in your mouth. All other erectile dysfunction medications are only available as oral tablets that much be swallowed whole. Therefore, if you have difficulty taking tablets, Levitra may be the better option for you. 

There are many different erectile dysfunction medications available. It is a good idea to try a few different treatment options to find out which one works best for you. 

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There are several physical causes of erectile dysfunction. Most commonly, erectile dysfunction is caused by damage to the nerves or blood vessels that supply the penis. Hormonal imbalances, drug side effects and psychological problems can also lead to erectile dysfunction in some people. 

If you are experiencing erectile dysfunction, there may be a number of lifestyle changes you can make to improve your condition and medications such as Viagra may also be an option to explore.