Erectile dysfunction in Australian men

Erectile dysfunction (ED or impotence) is defined as the persistent inability to achieve and/or maintain an erection sufficient for satisfactory sexual activity. Although erectile dysfunction, formerly called impotence, is more common in men older than 65, it can occur at any age. An occasional episode of erectile dysfunction happens to most men and is normal.

Erectile dysfunction (ED or impotence) is defined as the persistent inability to achieve and/or maintain an erection sufficient for satisfactory sexual activity. Although erectile dysfunction, formerly called impotence, is more common in men older than 65, it can occur at any age. An occasional episode of erectile dysfunction happens to most men and is normal.
 
As men age, it's also normal to experience changes in erectile function. Erections may take longer to develop, may not be as rigid or may require more direct stimulation to be achieved. Men may also notice that orgasms are less intense, the volume of ejaculate is reduced and recovery time increases between erections. Patterns of erectile dysfunction include:
  • Occasional inability to obtain a full erection
  • Inability to maintain an erection throughout intercourse
  • Complete inability to achieve an erection

The problem in Australia

 
It affects approximately 100 million men around the globe to some degree, with about one million Australian men currently affected. 
 
Because the Australian community is a relatively fit one, men are tending to live longer than before and the incidence of ED is certain to escalate (the condition is more common as men age). While studies here have been lacking until recently, a South Australian community study, which recruited men from the general community (through a household survey) confirms that age is the strongest contributing demographic factor to ED, with 60 years of age often being the turning point where desire exceeds potency and sexual frequency diminishes.
 
The study found that 52 per cent of men between 40-70 years had some form of ED, with almost 60 per cent of 60-year-old men having this complaint. The study found that sexual function was also affected by risk factors such as smoking, hypertension, obesity and a high total cholesterol levels. Vigorous exercise was found to be protective. Research also found diabetes (types 1 and 2) to be a significant contributor to ED.
 

Heart health affects sexual health

 
According to Michael P Lowy, Sexual Health Physician at the Australian Centre for Sexual Health in Sydney, erectile dysfunction is clearly an established and recognised male health problem - but one that is decreasingly being regarded as an inevitable consequence of ageing. He estimates that more men will seek help in the future as the availability of effective treatments increases and becomes more widely known.
 
Lowy believes that doctors will need to improve their skills in obtaining patients' sexual histories as more men request help. A full assessment of men, with emphasis on cardiovascular risk factors, will help direct the consultation to discussion of sexual matters - it makes good sense to combine cardiac and sexual issues. Understanding the link between cardiac problems and ED also helps to reduce the stigma that has been associated with impotence until now.
 
The Australian community-based studies on male sexual function show a pattern similar to that in overseas studies, and highlight two important points in this era of increasing demand for treatment of ED:
  • Doctors and the men they treat - need to understand "normal" sexual function for men at different age groups
  • Understanding that an apparently healthy patient presenting with ED may have underlying cardiovascular disease can improve both cardiovascular health and sexual function.
The discovery of medications like sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis) and vardenafil (Levitra) have made a remarkable difference to the lives of many couples. These medications work by improving the circulation and retention of blood in the penis. They are effective but must be used with caution by those with certain medical conditions. Men taking drugs known as nitrates, for heart problems, must not use Viagra, Cialis or Levitra.
 
Injection of a hormone directly into the side of the penis is also effective and men can be taught to do this themselves. Special vacuum devices can help and, for irreversible cases, special pump-like devices can be surgically inserted into the penis, allowing its owner to literally turn an erection on and off as he wishe
 
Erectile dysfunction was once a taboo subject, but more men are seeking help. Doctors are gaining a better understanding of what causes erectile dysfunction and are finding new and better treatments. During the past decade more and more medical facilities devoted to this condition have opened, most offering confidential telephonic help lines. Therefore, whatever your age, be it 19 or 90, and you think you have erectile dysfunction, don’t be shy, get it checked out.