Erectile dysfunction is a problem that become more and more common with age. It’s estimated that 40% of men over the age of 40 suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED). That number rises sharply over the next decades of life, and up to 70% of men over the age of 70% have problems with fertility and erections.
But here’s the interesting thing about ED: it’s not only going to affect your erections. While an inability to achieve or maintain a full erection is the most noticeable, worrisome of the side effects of ED, the truth is that it’s not the worst. There are a number of problems far more serious, though less visible, that accompany ED.
You see, erectile dysfunction doesn’t usually occur alone. It’s not like you have a hard time achieving erections from one day to the next. ED is almost always accompanied by other health problems—the real underlying cause of the ED. These health problems can range from minor (such as obesity) to major (clogged blood vessels). If you’re not aware of these underlying health problems, you could end up with for more serious health problems.
If you’re having erectile difficulties, it’s time to get to the doctor NOW! There are a surprising number of health reasons you need to be concerned about:
Obesity is one of the most common of the risk factors for erectile dysfunction. While the exact relationship between obesity and ED isn’t quite clear, it’s a well-known fact that being overweight can contribute to a reduction in testosterone output and blood flow. Reduce the amount of testosterone produced by your body and restrict blood flow to your gonads and penis, and erectile problems are all but guaranteed.
Obesity is a risk factor in MANY health conditions, not just ED. Living with too much weight and body fat can lead to hundreds of different health problems and disorders, so it’s vital that you take steps to correct your weight problems and get your BMI under control.
You’d be amazed by how many medications and drugs can cause erectile problems! WebMD has a very long list of drugs, including diuretics, medications for high blood pressure, anti-anxiety medications, anti-depressants, antiepileptic drugs, NSAIDs, antihistamines, antiarrythmics, muscle relaxants, chemotherapy drugs, prostate cancer medications, histamine H2 receptors, amphetamines, barbituates, methadone, opiates, and even marijuana. That’s a lot of drugs that can cause ED!
But all of these drugs also run the risk of causing other negative side effects—everything ranging from gastrointestinal distress to heart problems to headaches to fatigue to dizziness. The side effects and symptoms of taking these medications aren’t limited to ED.
If you notice negative side effects of your medications, consult with your doctor before continuing. They may be able to recommend an alternative that doesn’t cause problems like erectile dysfunction and other side effects.
The human body NEEDS sleep in order to function properly. Your body makes repairs at night, and the levels of growth hormone are increased overnight in order to produce new, healthy cells. Sleep disorders have been linked to erectile dysfunction—men suffering from sleep apnea are TWICE as likely to have erectile difficulties as men who sleep normally.
Did you know that sleep apnea can have a lot of other negative side effects? The fact that your airways are closing means your body isn’t getting enough oxygen at night. The lack of oxygen can lead to fatigue, headaches, concentration difficulties, and so many other negative side effects. Sleep apnea doesn’t just cause problems overnight, but the side effects of poor sleep quality are visible all day long.
Your emotional wellbeing plays a very prominent role in your physical wellbeing. Stress, depression, anxiety, guilt, low self-esteem, and indifference can all contribute to erectile dysfunction. These psychological and emotional problems play a role in roughly 10-20% of ED cases.
But psychological and emotional problems can cause trouble in many other areas of your life. Stress is a risk factor in 80% of diseases and disorders. Depression can lead to reduced quality of life and even suicidal thoughts and actions. Anxiety, guilt, and low self-esteem may all contribute to other psychological and emotional disorders, some of which can be seriously dangerous.
Getting help with your psychological and emotional problems won’t just help to treat the ED problems—it can improve your quality of life!
The heart is the organ responsible for pumping blood to your reproductive organs. Without healthy blood flow, your penis doesn’t get the blood needed for erections, and your gonads don’t get enough nutrients or oxygen to produce testosterone. Heart disease is one of the most common causes behind ED.
Heart disease is also the #1 cause of death IN THE WORLD! The CDC estimates that 25% of deaths in the U.S. every year are the result of heart disease—that’s 610,000 people dying from heart problems. If heart disease is the underlying cause of your ED, your health is in serious peril. It’s vital that you visit your cardiologist and get your heart checked out. Heart disease is a subtle killer; by the time you know you have heart problems, it may be too late.
Cholesterol is needed by the body for the production of cellular walls and hormones, and it plays many other important roles in body function. However, too much cholesterol can reduce the flow of blood, and can contribute to heart problems, Cholesterol that clings to the arterial walls and hardens into plaque will prevent the endothelial lining from production the nitric oxide needed for the dilation of your blood vessels. As a result, your body will be unable to send sufficient blood flowing to your penis, leading to erectile difficulties.
But that’s not the ONLY problem that could result from high cholesterol!
A build-up of cholesterol can lead to arterial narrowing, or atherosclerosis. This narrowing of the arteries can force your heart to work extra hard to pump blood, contributing to high blood pressure and increasing the risk of heart failure. It can also prevent sufficient blood from reaching your brain, your muscles, and your organs. It may contribute to a higher risk of stroke and heart attack.
It’s VERY important that you get your cholesterol checked out if you have erectile problems. It’s the best way to catch potentially serious cholesterol problems before they cause heart attacks, strokes, peripheral arterial disease, or a host of other heart problems.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is another major contributor to erectile dysfunction. Not only does the increase in blood pressure lead to a reduction in blood flow to the penis, but many of the medications taken to treat the high blood pressure can also reduce circulation.
High blood pressure is also a very serious health risk, one that can be fatal. Chronically high blood pressure can strain the heart by forcing the cardiac muscles to work extra hard. When your heart has to struggle to pump blood to your body, it can overwork the muscles, potentially leading to tears and fissures in the muscles. When this happens, your heart can no longer pump blood properly. And we all know what happens when your heart can’t pump blood!
High blood pressure and hypertension are two of the most common risk factors in heart failure. Considering that heart disease is the #1 killer in the world today, it should be very clear that ANY sign of heart problems (including ED, especially if paired with chronic fatigue) demands an immediate doctor visit. If you catch high blood pressure early enough, you can treat it before it causes irreparable harm to your heart!
How does diabetes contribute to ED? Well, diabetes can cause damage to the blood vessels, including the vessels in the penis. The diabetes-caused damage may make it harder for the penis to achieve full erection. At the same time, diabetes can cause circulatory problems that prevent enough blood from reaching the penis, and may affect the heart negatively. The combination of problems leads to erectile dysfunction.
But erection problems definitely aren’t the worst side effects of diabetes. Diabetes can contribute to a host of other more serious issues, including cardiovascular disease, kidney and nerve damage, eye damage, Alzheimer’s, hearing impairment, skin conditions, and the list goes on! If left untreated, diabetes can be fatal.
Metabolic syndrome is the name given to a number of abnormalities (physiological and biochemical) that can lead to the development of both Type 2 Diabetes and cardiovascular disease. When high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat, and high cholesterol levels all occur together, they are known as metabolic syndrome. They can contribute to a higher risk of ED, but will also definitely increase the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.
If you have more than one of the above-mentioned problems, it’s vital that you visit your doctor! Metabolic syndrome can lead to long-term health issues, many of which can be fatal (heart disease is a killer!). Getting medical help to treat these problems is the best way to treat your ED and reduce your risk of serious health issues.
Impotence and erectile dysfunction are among the most unusual of the side effects of multiple sclerosis, but it’s surprisingly common—up to 50% of male MS patients suffer from erectile difficulties. The compromising of your central nervous system can lead to a wide range of health problems, including sexual complications.
If you’re suffering from erectile difficulties and some of the early signs of MS—vision problems, weakness, fatigue, bladder issues, dizziness, balance problems, tingling, numbness, or spasms—it’s vital that you get checked out ASAP! These warning signs are a clear indicator of what’s going on in your body, and catching them early can help you take steps to treat the problem and improve your quality of life.
Did you know that as many as 80% of those with Parkinson’s Disease also suffer from erectile problems? Men with Parkinson’s may have an inability to orgasm, reduced sex drive, premature or delayed ejaculation, and troubles achieving a full erection.
Of course, Parkinson’s Disease comes with a host of other symptoms, such as muscle tremors, reduction in motor functions, and the list goes on. ED is just one of the signs, but it may be a good indication that something more serious is going on in your body. A visit to your doctor for erectile problems may lead to an early diagnosis of Parkinson’s.
The prostate plays a vital role in men’s sexual health, so it’s no surprise that the treatment of prostate problems can lead to reduced sexual function. An enlarged prostate can cause erectile difficulties, and the treatment of both BPH and prostate cancer can affect erectile function.
Unfortunately, this is one case where the side effects are worth it in order to treat the problem. Prostate cancer is among the most common types of cancer for men. According to the CDC, almost 21 out of 100,000 men in the U.S. died last year, and almost 13% of men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives. Erectile dysfunction is a serious problem, but nowhere near as serious as prostate problems. Even if it means your erections will suffer for a while, it’s more important to treat the prostate problems before they become serious (read: fatal)!
Erectile dysfunction can be a serious problem in and of itself, but it can also be an indicator that there are other health problems at the same time. You should try to both treat the ED AND understand what’s causing it. You may be able to take steps to correct the health problems that are causing the ED before they contribute to other more serious problems!