Talking about tackle
A doctor should be the first port of call for men seeking help with erectile problems.
Words: Andrew Turner
As with many health matters concerning the area south of the belt, erectile dysfunction remains one of those unmentionable topics for many Australian men.
According to Andrology Australia, it can happen at any age and affects at least one in five men over the age of 40 and about two in three over the age of 70, causing potentially devastating results to a sufferer’s self-esteem and even their relationships.
Professor Robert McLachlan, director of Andrology Australia, defines erectile dysfunction as “a failure to establish and maintain an erection adequate for satisfactory sexual activity”.
As a normal erection relies on healthy nerves and blood vessels that allow blood flow into and out of the penis, he says, an inability to attain an erection is often the first sign that blood vessels aren’t functioning as they should be and can be a symptom of other physical health problems.
While psychological factors, such as depression or anxiety about sexual performance, are sometimes the underlying cause of erectile dysfunction, around three in four cases are attributed to physical causes, according to Sexology Australia. High cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure are the main culprits, as well as the post-operative effects of surgery to the prostate in some cases.
“Your GP is the best person to talk to because they can conduct a proper health assessment to determine if there is an underlying problem,” explains Professor McLachlan.
Depending on their findings, they may refer a patient to a specialist or continue working with them individually, addressing the underlying triggers of the condition by devising a regime to ensure regular exercise, a healthy diet and the attainment of optimum weight – lifestyle factors that Professor McLachlan describes as being “associated with positive benefits for erections”.
In some cases, a GP may prescribe tablet medications, otherwise known as PDE5 inhibitors, to help treat the condition. In a minority of cases, where the tablets aren’t effective and a man suffers from severe erectile dysfunction, the next tier of available treatments includes vacuum pumps, intra-penile injection therapy and implants, which can be successful for men who are unable to attain erections, for example after extensive prostate surgery or with other conditions with severe blood vessel or nerve damage to the penis.
Men who have experienced erectile dysfunction and had it successfully treated are, in the words of Professor McLachlan, “very happy when they get their erections back”.
Information provided in this article is not medical advice and you should consult with your healthcare practitioner. Australian Unity accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions, advice, representations or information contained in this publication. Readers should rely on their own advice and enquiries in making decisions affecting their own health, wellbeing or interest.
Beware improper care
The internet and billboards beside freeways are just two places where advertisements offering treatment for erectile dysfunction are commonplace. But the safety and effectiveness of such treatments are questionable. Andrology Australia’s Professor Robert McLachlan advises men seeking treatment for erectile dysfunction to use established medications that have been fully assessed, clinically proven and prescribed by their doctor.