1 the quality of lacking strength or power; being weak and feeble [syn: powerlessness, impotency] [ant: power, power]
2 an inability (usually of a male) to copulate [syn: impotency]
- French impuissance (1, 2)
Erectile dysfunction (ED or (male) impotence) is a sexual dysfunction characterized by the inability to develop or maintain an erection of the penis. There are various underlying causes, such as cardiovascular leakage and diabetes, many of which are medically treatable. Nerve trauma from prostatectomy surgery can cause chronic erectile dysfunction.
The causes of erectile dysfunction may be physiological or psychological. Physiologically, erection is a hydraulic mechanism based upon blood entering and being retained in the penis, and there are various ways in which this can be impeded, most of which are amenable to treatment. Psychological impotence is where erection or penetration fails due to thoughts or feelings (psychological reasons) rather than physical impossibility; this can often be helped. Notably in psychological impotence, there is a very strong placebo effect.
Erectile dysfunction, tied closely as it is to cultural notions of potency, success and masculinity, can have devastating psychological consequences, including feelings of shame, loss or inadequacy; often unnecessary since in most cases the matter can be helped. There is a strong culture of silence and inability to discuss the matter. In fact, around 1 in 10 men will experience recurring impotence problems at some point in their lives.
Folk remedies have long been advocated, with some being advertised widely since the 1930s. The introduction of the first pharmacologically-approved remedy for impotence, sildenafil (trade name Viagra), in the 1990s caused a wave of public attention, propelled in part by heavy advertising.
The Latin term impotentia coeundi describes simple inability to insert the penis into the vagina. It is now mostly replaced by more precise terms. The study of erectile dysfunction within medicine is covered by andrology, a sub-field within urology.
Overview and symptomsErectile dysfunction is characterized by the regular or repeated inability to obtain or maintain an erection. There are several ways that erectile dysfunction is analyzed:
- Obtaining full erections at some times, such as when asleep (when the mind and psychological issues, if any, are less present), tends to suggest the physical structures are functionally working. However, the opposite case, a lack of nocturnal erections, does not imply the opposite, since a significant proportion of sexually functional men do not routinely get nocturnal erections or wet dreams.
- Obtaining erections which are either not rigid or full (lazy erection), or are lost more rapidly than would be expected (often before or during penetration), can be a sign of a failure of the mechanism which keeps blood held in the penis, and may signify an underlying clinical condition, often cardiovascular in origin.
Erection problems are very common. The Sexual Dysfunction Association estimates that 1 in 10 men in the UK have recurring problems with their erections at some point in their life.)
- Hormonal Disorders (pituitary gland tumor; low level of the hormone testosterone).
- Arterial Disorders (peripheral vascular disease, hypertension; reduced blood flow to the penis).
- Cavernosal Disorders (Peyronie's disease.)
- Nonphysical causes: Mental disorders (clinical depression, schizophrenia, substance abuse, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, personality disorders or traits.), psychological problems, negative feelings.
- Surgery (radiation therapy, surgery of the colon, prostate, bladder, or rectum may damage the nerves and blood vessels involved in erection. Prostate and bladder cancer surgery often require removing tissue and nerves surrounding a tumor, which increases the risk for impotence.)
- Lifestyle: alcohol and drugs, obesity, cigarette smoking (Incidence of impotence is approximately 85 percent higher in male smokers compared to non-smokers. Smoking is a key cause of erectile dysfunction. Smoking causes impotence because it promotes arterial narrowing. See also Tobacco and health. )
- Other disorders.
A few causes of impotence may be iatrogenic (medically caused). Various antihypertensives (medications intended to control high blood pressure) and some drugs that modify central nervous system response may inhibit erection by denying blood supply or by altering nerve activity.
Surgical intervention for a number of different conditions may remove anatomical structures necessary to erection, damage nerves, or impair blood supply. Complete removal of the prostate gland or external beam radiotherapy of the gland are common causes of impotence; both are treatments for prostate cancer. Some studies have shown that male circumcision may result in an increased risk of impotence, while others have found no such effect, and another found the opposite.
Excessive alcohol use has long been recognised as one cause of impotence, leading to the euphemism "brewer's droop," or "whiskey dick;" Shakespeare made light of this phenomenon in Macbeth.
A study in 2002 found that ED can also be associated with bicycling. The number of hours on a bike and/or the pressure on the penis from the saddle of an upright bicycle is directly related to erectile dysfunction.
Medical diagnosisThere are no formal tests to diagnose erectile dysfunction. Some blood tests are generally done to exclude underlying disease, such as diabetes, hypogonadism and prolactinoma. Impotence is also related to generally poor physical health, poor dietary habits, obesity, and most specifically cardiovascular disease such as coronary artery disease and peripheral vascular disease.
A useful and simple way to distinguish between physiological and psychological impotence is to determine whether the patient ever has an erection. If never, the problem is likely to be physiological; if sometimes (however rarely), it could be physiological or psychological. The current diagnostic and statistical manual of mental diseases (DSM-IV) has included a listing for impotence.
Clinical Tests Used to Diagnose ED
TreatmentTreatment depends on the cause. Testosterone supplements may be used for cases due to hormonal deficiency. However, the cause is more usually lack of adequate penile blood supply as a result of damage to inner walls of blood vessels. This damage is more frequent in older men, and often associated with disease, in particular diabetes.
Treatments (with the exception of testosterone supplementation, where effective) work on a temporary basis: they enable an erection to be attained and maintained long enough for intercourse, but do not permanently improve the underlying condition. There are different treatments available: 3 different tablets are currently available from the doctor and these work when there is sexual stimulation. Depending on the treatment, it will need to be taken 20 minutes to 1 hour before sex and the period of time over which it works can vary between 3 hours and up to 36 hours. This can be injected into the penis or inserted using a special applicator - usually just before sexual intercourse. Currently, only commercially available in the Far East, Befar has shown a clinical efficacy of up to 83% in patients with varying degrees of ED. (6) The cream itself has an onset action of 10-15 minutes and can continue on past 4-hours, (Figure 2) and is favorably comparable to the efficacy of the injectable alprostadil. (3, 19)
Due to Befar’s direct application method (i.e. unlike Viagra, Befar’s actions are limited to the area of its application), the side effects induced by the application have to date been limited to transient warm and burning sensations. These work by drawing blood into the penis and are also used just before sexual intercourse. It is rare, but some men receive hormones for their erection problem. This does depend on the cause of the problem as well as other factors. Often, as a last resort if other treatments have failed, the most common procedure is prosthetic implants which involves the insertion of artificial rods into the penis. Counselling is often a consideration, both where a psychological cause is suspected or must be ruled out, or to assist in management of any distress.
ED can in many cases be treated by drugs taken orally, injected, or as penile suppositories. These drugs increase the efficacy of NO, which dilates the blood vessels of corpora cavernosa. When oral drugs or suppositories fail, injections into the erectile tissue of the penile shaft are extremely effective but occasionally cause priapism. When pharmacological methods fail, a purpose-designed external vacuum pump can be used to attain erection, with a separate compression ring fitted to the penis to maintain it. These pumps should be distinguished from other "penis pumps" (supplied without compression rings) which, rather than being used for temporary treatment of impotence, are claimed to increase penis length if used frequently, or vibrate as an aid to masturbation.
More drastically, inflatable or rigid penile implants may be fitted surgically. Implants are irreversible and costly.
All these mechanical methods are based on simple principles of hydraulics and mechanics and are quite reliable, but have their disadvantages.
In a few cases there is a vascular problem which can be treated surgically.
Uncontroversial treatmentsOne of the forms of phophodiesterase is termed PDE5. The prescription PDE5 inhibitors sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra) and tadalafil (Cialis) are prescription drugs which are taken orally. They work by blocking the action of PDE5, which causes cGMP to degrade. CGMP specific phosphodiesterase type 5 causes the smooth muscle of the arteries in the penis to relax, allowing the corpus cavernosum to fill with blood.
(Specific devices are mentioned for information only; mention should not be taken as endorsement).
Controversial and unapproved treatments
- Enzyte is a supplement that claims to increase the male libido or frequency of erections of the penis. Commercials for Enzyte are shown regularly on television. These commercials feature a man named Bob who never stops smiling, apparently because he had taken Enzyte and improved the size of his sex organs. The commercials are riddled with symbolic phallic imagery, e.g. golf clubs, remarkably tall glasses of iced tea, and a hose spraying barely a trickle of water (carried by someone who doesn't use Enzyte).
- The effectiveness of Enzyte is in dispute. Some medical professionals in fact advise against taking Enzyte, saying that it can lead to damage. The Center for Science in the Public Interest have urged the Federal Trade Commission to disallow further television advertising for Enzyte due to a lack of proper studies supporting claims. Enzyte maker Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, Inc., is currently under a class action lawsuit for false advertising.
- Enzyte is said to contain: Tribulus
terrestris; Yohimbe Extract; Niacin; Epimedium;
Avena sativa; zinc oxide;
maca; Muira Pauma; Ginkgo
biloba; L-Arginine; Saw
Palmetto. Other ingredients: gelatin, rice bran, oat fiber,
magnesium stearate, silicon dioxide.
- These are generally ineffective when tested blind, but may be useful for their psychological (placebo) effect: if a good result is expected, any highly praised, and often expensive, treatment can be effective. Reputable drugs can also benefit from the same effect. This is especially useful if blindfolded, as it helps to clear the mind of anxiety issues.
Other treatment methods
ZincZinc is known to help prevent the conversion of testosterone to estradiol, and testosterone is essential for proper erectile function and the synthesis of sperm (testosterone deficiency is a primary contributor in many cases of erectile dysfunction). Moreover, zinc levels have been found to be significantly reduced in both chronic bacterial prostatitis (CBP) and non-bacterial prostatitis (NBP). Many doctors and nutritionalists recommend zinc for prostate or erectile problems.
Zinc is best taken in lozenge form, as in tablet form the zinc is difficult to absorb, and can irritate the stomach lining.
HistoryThe earliest attempts at treating erectile dysfunction date back to Muslim physicians and pharmacists in the medieval Islamic world. They were the first to prescribe medication for the treatment of this problem, and they developed several methods of therapy for this issue, including a single-drug therapy method where a drug was prescribed and a "combination method of either a drug or food." Most of these drugs were oral medication, though a few patients were also treated through topical and transurethral means. Erectile dysfunctions were being treated with tested drugs in the Islamic world since the 9th century until the 16th century by a number of Muslim physicians and pharmacists, including Muhammad ibn Zakarīya Rāzi, Thabit bin Qurra, Ibn Al-Jazzar, Avicenna (The Canon of Medicine), Averroes, Ibn al-Baitar, and Ibn al-Nafis (The Comprehensive Book on Medicine).
Dr. John R. Brinkley initiated a boom in male impotence cures in the US in the 1920s and 1930s. His radio programs recommended expensive goat gland implants and "mercurochrome" injections as the path to restored male virility, including operations by surgeon Serge Voronoff. After the Kansas State Medical Board revoked his medical license and the Federal Radio Commission refused to renew his radio license (both in 1930), Brinkley moved his operations just over the Texas border to Mexico where he opened a medical clinic and broadcast advertisements into the US from a border blaster radio station.
Surgeons began providing patients with inflatable penile implants in the 1970s.
Modern drug therapy for ED made a significant advance in 1983 when British physiologist Giles Brindley, Ph.D. dropped his trousers and demonstrated to a shocked American Urological Association audience his phentolamine-induced erection. The drug Brindley injected into his penis was a non-specific vasodilator, an alpha-blocking agent, and the mechanism of action was clearly corporal smooth muscle relaxation. The effect that Brindley discovered established the fundamentals for the later development of specific, safe, orally-effective drug therapies.
Reference: Helgason ÁR, Adolfsson J, Dickman P, Arver S, Fredrikson M, Göthberg M, Steineck G. Sexual desire, erection, orgasm and ejaculatory functions and their importance to elderly Swedish men: A population-based study. Age and Ageing. 1996:25:285-291.http://ageing.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/25/4/285
impotence in Catalan: Disfunció erèctil
impotence in Czech: Erektilní dysfunkce
impotence in Danish: Impotens
impotence in German: Erektile Dysfunktion
impotence in Spanish: Disfunción eréctil
impotence in Esperanto: Impotenteco
impotence in French: Impuissance sexuelle
impotence in Indonesian: Disfungsi ereksi
impotence in Italian: Disfunzione erettile
impotence in Hebrew: אין-אונות
impotence in Latin: Impotentia erecti
impotence in Lithuanian: Impotencija
impotence in Malay (macrolanguage): Lemah tenaga batin
impotence in Dutch: Impotentie
impotence in Japanese: 勃起不全
impotence in Norwegian: Impotens
impotence in Polish: Impotencja
impotence in Portuguese: Disfunção erétil
impotence in Russian: Импотенция
impotence in Slovenian: Erektilna disfunkcija
impotence in Serbian: Импотенција
impotence in Finnish: Erektiohäiriö
impotence in Swedish: Impotens
impotence in Vietnamese: Liệt dương
impotence in Yiddish: ערעקטייל דיספאנקשען
impotence in Chinese: 勃起功能障碍
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