Erectile Dysfunction (also commonly called “impotence”), is a topic many people tend to shy away from. However, just like any other symptom, Erectile Dysfunction (ED) can be a sign of other pathologies occurring in the body and should not be ignored.
When a man is unable to achieve or maintain a rigid erection, he could be suffering from ED. The commonest cause of ED is poor blood flow into the penis due to unhealthy blood vessels. This could be the first sign of chronic diseases such as Diabetes, High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol. Because all these diseases also increase the risk of a heart attack, it is known that getting ED is an early sign of heart disease. In fact, medical studies have shown that ED precedes a heart attack by 5 to 10 years.
ED is extremely common. In a study of men in Singapore, 40% of men in their 40’s suffer from ED. And this increased to almost 80% in men in their 60’s.
So ED as a symptom should not be ignored. Unfortunately, many patients have mistaken beliefs like ED is all in the mind and that ED is a normal part of aging so it does not need to be further investigated. Also, some patients feel that ED is a taboo subject to bring up to their Doctors. Or they may just be too shy to talk about it.
The treatment for ED starts with identifying any underlying risk factors. Common risk factors include chronic diseases like Obesity, Diabetes, High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol. Poor lifestyle habits like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are also risk factors for ED. Other risk factors more commonly seen in older men include prostate enlargement and low Testosterone levels.
Once the underlying conditions and risk factors have been identified and controlled, we can then start to advise the patient on various treatments for the ED symptom itself.
The most commonly prescribed treatment is oral tablets. There are currently 4 different types of oral medication used to treat ED in Singapore. They each have their unique characteristics. Most are taken just before sexual intercourse. However there are also medicines which are taken regularly that not only improves erection function but also improves symptoms caused by an enlarged prostate.
Another common treatment is penile injections. These are medicines that are injected into the penis and causes relaxation of the blood vessels and improved blood flow. Patients inject themselves prior to sexual intercourse. When done properly there can be very minimal discomfort during the injection.
A treatment for ED that has gained much popularity in Singapore since it was launched here in 2014 is Li-ESWT. This is short for Low Intensity Electro Shock Wave Therapy. This treatment involves delivering painless low power waves into the penis. This stimulates the penis to produce new healthy blood vessels and restore healthy blood flow.
So if you or someone you know is suffering from ED, please do not ignore it. See your Doctor and get checked. It may be the first sign of a more serious problem. Also there are now safe and effective treatments for ED that will allow you to maintain a healthy relationship with your partner.