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Erectile Dysfunction in Young Men

Erectile dysfunction, which was primarily associated with middle-aged and older men, is now a common problem with a large number of young men, as well. Here is an insight into erectile dysfunction in young men.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a medical term used to describe a man's inability to get and sustain an erection required for satisfactory intercourse.

Also known as impotence, ED has different severity levels. Some men do not get any kind of erection at all (total inability), while some manage to, but not hard enough for penetration (inconsistent ability). Then there are cases where the person is able to penetrate, but eventually loses it (sustaining only a brief erection).

The following gives you a quick insight into some important aspects of this common sexual disorder in men.

ED - No More Unique to Older Men
Erectile dysfunction - what was thought to be a medical problem unique to middle-aged or older men, is now a growing concern among the population of younger men too. To establish this fact, a small survey was conducted on males aged between 18-25 in Chicago. The survey was conducted by Najah Senno Musacchio, MD, of Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, and fellow researchers. The survey was conducted over 234 men, and its results were surprising.

30 out of 234 men complained of having difficulty in getting or maintaining an erection.

About 58 men reported that putting on a condom caused them to lose their erection.

ED - Red Flag for Young Men
More than being a sexual disorder, doctors consider ED to be a potent indicator of cardiovascular diseases in younger men. Doctors say that, the younger a man with ED is, the more likely he is to develop heart diseases. To be specific, ED in men younger than 50, has greater chances of being linked to cardiovascular problems. On the other hand, the same condition in men above 70 years of age, is less likely to signal any such problems.

ED - Mostly Psychological than Physical
One cannot disregard the fact that certain health conditions may cause erectile dysfunction in young men. However, according to most experts, the problem mostly roots from psychological problems. This is truer in case of younger males who have ED, but are otherwise healthy. The psychological factors listed below are believed to be commonly linked to at least 10-25 percent of men in their 30s, who have ED.
• Homosexuality
• Stress
• Depression
• Low self-esteem
• Performance anxiety
• Financial upheavals
• Anxiety of having sex or causing pregnancy
Furthermore, the survey conducted by Dr. Musacchio, as cited above, showed that about 58 men reported of losing an erection as soon as they try putting on a condom. So, this only backs the fact that ED in young males may be more of a psychological concern than a physical condition.

ED - Not Always Linked to Poor Libido
It may be incorrect to think that ED is linked to lack of libido or low sex drive. While poor libido and ED are both sexual disorders, they aren't always associated with each other. Erectile dysfunction particularly points to the inability of a man in achieving and sustaining an erection. Most men, despite having a healthy sex drive, suffer from ED.

ED - Doesn't Indicate Aging
As a man ages, his testosterone levels gradually decline. Normally, it is after age 30 that this decline occurs. So, most men with ED may suppose that this condition is a sign of aging. This, however, isn't true. ED is mostly related to heart conditions such as atherosclerosis, and does not have low testosterone as any of its direct causal factors.

ED - Other Causes
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol Abuse
  • Drug Abuse
  • Obesity
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Treatment of prostate cancer, bladder cancer, and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
  • Certain medication (commonly the ones used for blood pressure and depression)

What Can Be Done?
Treating erectile dysfunction involves various methods which range from medication, mechanical devices, surgery to psychological counseling. The treatment depends upon its severity and the underlying causes.

If any heart disease is found to be the underlying cause of erectile dysfunction, then the main treatment measure is to implement some changes in diet and lifestyle. Following a heart-healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and increasing physical activity would help in improving the condition.

Erectile dysfunction is caused by a disturbance in the blood flow to the corpus cavernosum - two cylinder-shaped chambers, which run the length of the penis. When an act of sexual arousal is performed, chemical signals to and from the brain, cause the body to release nitric oxide. This chemical relaxes the penile muscles thus allowing a large amount of blood to flow through the corpus cavernosum, which causes an erection. But this erection is lost when another chemical, phosphodiesterase type 5, neutralizes the effect of nitric oxide, and that is when the penis becomes flaccid. So, in the case of ED, one treatment method is to use drugs known as phosphodiesterase inhibitors. These drugs hamper the function of the chemical (phosphodiesterase type 5), while enhancing that of the nitric oxide. In this way, they help maintain an erection for a longer period. Some common examples of these oral drugs include:
  • Viagra
  • Cialis
  • Levitra
However, caution must be exercised before opting for these medicines. It is better to discuss their benefits and side effects with a qualified doctor. This is more important for those who are already on other medicines, or those who are suffering from chronic medical conditions. For such people, taking nonprescription ED drugs may lead to unpleasant situations.

Therapies like needle-injection therapy, self-administered intraurethral therapy (Muse), and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) are also recommended for treating erectile dysfunction.

Mechanical aids are also available for achieving erection. Some of them include:
  • Constriction ring
  • Vacuum pump
  • Semi-rigid penile prosthesis
  • Inflatable penile prosthesis
In some cases, a person also has an option to undergo surgical procedures such as vascular surgery, penile implants, arterial surgery, etc.

In cases wherein, the disorder is related to any psychological factor, which is more common with younger males, the affected person and his partner may be advised to seek guidance of a sex therapist.

Erectile dysfunction is a growing concern. About 18-30 million men in the United States are affected by it. While it is true that, ED in younger men, mostly indicates heart diseases (leaving out the psychological factors), it does not have to be so in all cases. However, if you are young and have ED, then getting a medical examination is advised. This will not only help you rule out the potential causes behind your problem, but also encourage you to take steps to prevent the same, if there should be any.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.
By Rajib Singha
Last Updated: 1/4/2013
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