Although many men would deny it, impotence is a problem that affects most men at some point in their lives. Generally, causes for temporary impotence can be related to stress or illness and the occasional bout of impotence should not cause a couple alarm. However, if the problem develops into permanent impotence, it is likely time to make an appointment with a fertility specialist.
What is Impotence?
Also known as erectile dysfunction, impotence refers to a man’s inability to achieve and maintain an erection. While a man experiencing erectile dysfunction may think he is the only one having this type of problem, the reality is that an estimated 25 to 30 million men will encounter impotence during their lifetime. Despite the fact that impotence can make it nearly impossible to conceive a child, erectile dysfunction is generally not credited as a cause of infertility. This is because impotence causes are normally the result of underlying factors that need to be addressed.
Causes of Impotence
With age, the quality of a man’s erection and orgasm will change. It is not uncommon for older men to find it harder to achieve an erection and therefore rely on impotence medications, like Viagra™, for a little bit of assistance in the bedroom. In younger men, though, sustaining an erection should generally not be difficult. While stress or illness may cause a man to experience temporary impotence, this type of erectile dysfunction should not last for too long. However, if impotence seems to be becoming a permanent problem, then it is necessary for the problem to be medically assessed.
In the past, as much as 80% of impotence causes were credited to psychological problems, such as fears and inhibitions. Nowadays, though, psychological causes, including stress, depression and anxiety, are seen to account for only 10% to 20% of erectile dysfunction cases. A further 70% of chronic impotence cases can be traced back to diseases, like kidney disease, alcoholism and diabetes, which can restrict blood flow to the penis. Other erectile dysfunction causes include the use of illicit and prescription drugs, including certain antidepressants and high blood pressure medications.
Men with spinal cord or brain injuries or some other type of nerve disorder may also find that maintaining or even achieving an erection is difficult. This is because their nerve impulses may be impaired thereby preventing the brain and penis from communicating properly. Radiation therapy, pelvic injury and surgery can also cause a man to be confronted with chronic impotence.
Determining whether erectile dysfunction is caused by physical or psychological factors is fairly simple. A doctor simply needs to ask if a man is experiencing nocturnal ejaculations (or wet dreams). If the answer is yes, then there is probably nothing physically wrong with his reproductive system and the impotence cause is likely to be psychological. Psychological counseling or sex therapy may be recommended to help you deal with the issues causing your impotence. However, if the answer is no, then physical causes of erectile dysfunction will need to be investigated for.
To diagnose a physical cause, a doctor may use a Doppler to evaluate blood flow through the arteries of the penis. A nocturnal penile tumescence test may also be conducted as this examines whether normal nighttime erections are occurring.
Men who have been diagnosed with impotence have a variety of erectile dysfunction treatment options. Which is best for you will depend on the reason behind your impotence.
Men whose impotence is the result of prescription drug use will likely be switched to a different type of medication. Erectile dysfunction drugs have also been shown to be very helpful for those men who cannot achieve an erection. Because physical factors often cause improper blood flow to the penis, these oral medications work to regulate the blood flow necessary for erection by increasing certain enzymes while suppressing others in the system.
There are a variety of impotence medications available on the market today, the best known if which is likely Viagra™. Like most medications, how effective an impotence drug will be varies from man to man. It may be necessary to try a few different brands before finding one that works for you. Other types of prescriptions for impotence include penile injections, which help the blood vessels to dilate thereby increasing the blood flow to the penis, and urethral suppositories.
Sex therapy is also increasingly being recommended for men suffering from erectile dysfunction, regardless of the cause. A man’s self-esteem often suffers when he experiences impotence and sex therapy can help him work through that. Often it is recommended that both partners attend sex therapy sessions so that they can improve their communication with each other as well as resolve any tension that may exist between them as a result of the sexual dysfunction.
Erectile dysfunction treatments are not limited to just medications and therapy, though. For those that choose to have impotence surgery, penile implants are the most common form of surgery done. These implants are usually made up of inflatable tubes or rods (which are placed inside the penis); a pump (which is located in the scrotum); and a reservoir of sterile liquid that is placed in the abdomen. When a man desires to have an erection, he simply squeezes the pump and the sterile liquid flows into the tubes. An erection results as the tubes expand.
Another type of surgery, known as vascular reconstructive surgery, is available to help improve blood flow to the penis. However, this surgery is not very common and is still considered to be experimental. There are potential long-term side effects associated with the surgery that include nerve damage and scar tissue, both of which can cause impotence.
Erectile Dysfunction Products
Men who prefer a more natural solution to their impotence problems may want to invest in an erectile dysfunction product. These products help a man temporarily achieve an erection without the aid of implants or medications. An erectile dysfunction pump or vacuum is the most common device used.
These impotence vacuum pumps consist of a plastic tube that fits over the penis. In order to create a seal, the tube must sit right up against the base of the penis. Then, using a hand pump, blood is drawn into the penis and, after a few minutes, an erection results. In order to maintain the erection, a rubber ring is placed at the base of the penis.
If none of these methods help a couple to achieve pregnancy naturally, a couple may want to look into artificial reproductive techniques and the use of ICSI to help fertilization.