Sexual dysfunction is more common in people who abuse alcohol and drugs. It is also more likely in people suffering from diabetes and degenerative neurological disorders. Ongoing psychological problems, difficulty maintaining relationships or chronic disharmony with the current sexual partner can also interfere with sexual function.
A recent study estimates that 30 million men suffer from various degrees of erectile dysfunction. This can range from mild to severe. It is clearly an age-related phenomenon with the prevalence of erectile dysfunction increasing significantly with age. Surprisingly, by the time men reach 40, 5% of them are completely impotent never achieving an erection rigid enough for penetration. Approximately 15% have significant problems achieving or maintaining an erection.
Erectile dysfunction can occur suddenly or gradually. Some men slowly lose the firmness of their erections or how long the erections last. In other men, especially those whose impotence is largely caused by psychological factors, the problem may occur unpredictably and can improve at any time. Despite their difficulties with erections, men with impotence often continue to have normal orgasm and ejaculation.
There are many effective treatments for erectile dysfunction. The most popular option is a class of drugs called phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitors, which includes sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra) and tadalafil (Cialis). These drugs, taken in pill form from zero to 60 minutes before sexual activity, work in approximately 70 percent of men, though they are less effective in men with neurological causes of erectile dysfunction such as nerve damage from prostate surgery, diabetes or spinal cord injury.
If Sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra) and tadalafil (Cialis) drugs don't work or cannot be used because of potential side effects, your doctor can recommend other therapies. The drug alprostadil (Caverject, Edex, Muse) causes blood vessels to widen. This can allow blood to flow more freely in the penis, leading to an erection. The drug can be injected with a tiny needle, or a small pellet (suppository) can be inserted into the opening of the penis. Suppositories like this are effective in approximately two-thirds of men. Injections are effective about 80 percent of the time.