Diseases Causing Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction is a fairly common sexual dysfunction that is known to alter the personal and sexual quality of life in males. According to latest estimates, ED affects more than 40% men over the age of 40 years (1). However, it is imperative to mention that most cases of ED are secondary to an existing health issue. For example, study conducted by Banks (1) and associates claimed that erectile dysfunction should be investigated in the workup for cardiovascular diseases (CVD) as sexual dysfunction is often the first sign of an ongoing vascular pathology.
What Are Some Diseases That Can Cause Erectile Dysfunction In Males?
It has been observed that adequate erectile function is a product of optimal mental, physical and hormonal health. In other words, any derangement in the mental or physical health can greatly affect your performance in the bedroom.
Following are some diseases that are known to significantly affect the erectile functions in men:
1. Cardiovascular diseases: This include, ischemic heart disease, atherosclerosis and hypertensive heart disease. The effects are due to irregularities in the overall circulation, poor stamina and use of drugs that are required to maintain optimal cardiac functions such as beta blockers, diuretics etc.
Based on the results of a large multi-center study that was conducted on 95,038 men, investigators concluded that men with ED are 1.6 times more likely to experience a cardiovascular event (such as heart failure, cardiac ischemia or peripheral artery disease) within 5 years of developing ED. Most importantly, ED may be the first sign of inadequate cardiac function in males and shouldn’t be ignored.
2. Multiple sclerosis: MS is a disabling disease that affects the integrity of central nervous system and affects the transmission of nerve impulses to and from the brain. Consequently, males often find it hard to achieve optimal erection due to poor stimulation. Besides multiple sclerosis, several other neurological disorders are also believed to compromise the quality of sex life such as Parkinson’s disease. According to a new study, males who are experiencing erectile dysfunction secondary to MS can get benefitted from papaverine intracorporeal injection therapy (3).
3. Alcoholism and other forms of substance abuse: This includes both the prescription drugs as well as illicit drugs. For example, data indicates that smokers with pack-year history of more than 10 years are at high risk of developing ED due to atherosclerosis. Other drugs of abuse that are very closely linked to erectile dysfunction are; alcohol, cocaine, opiates, methadone, barbiturates, amphetamines, marijuana and others. Although the effects are largely dose-dependent, it is noteworthy that the response varies from person to person.
4. Use of certain drugs:
Some pharmacological agents like beta blockers, anti-histamines, diuretics, antipsychotics, antidepressants, alpha blockers, antiarrhythmic agents, tranquilizers, muscle relaxants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-seizure medications, anabolic steroids and other hormone therapies, chemotherapy drugs etc. are also frequently implicated in the pathogenesis of erectile dysfunction in males (4).
4. Metabolic syndrome: Metabolic syndrome refers to a multitude of health issues due to metabolic derangements. Patients living with metabolic syndrome often encounter difficulties in managing their health problems such as hypertension, abnormal insulin levels, deposition of fat around the waist and high cholesterol.
In addition, certain metabolic health issues such as hypertension acts as a two-edged sword for the sexual functions in men as anti-hypertensive medications are very frequently associated with worsening of erectile dysfunction and sex drive.
5. Diseases of Reproductive system:
- Peyronie’s disease: This condition is marked by the development of scar tissue around the penis
- Treatments for prostate cancer or enlarged prostate: Enlarged prostate gland or prostate cancer is also reported as a fairly common cause of erectile dysfunction in men. The devastating effects are mediated by abnormal hormonal responses, physical and emotional disability and other psychological factors (such as depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem etc.)
- Surgeries or injuries that affect the pelvic area or spinal cord are also known to cause and/or worsen ED.
6. Mental Health Issues:
Psychological erectile dysfunction and impotency is often reported in the setting of poorly managed mental health issues such as anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorders, depression, bipolar disorder etc.
Healthcare providers strongly believe that virtually any health issue or poorly managed disease can compromise the quality of sex life and may present with erectile dysfunction or libido issues. For example, the incidence of erectile dysfunction is 10% higher in individuals with sleep disorders (such as sleep apnea, insomnia etc.) as compared to the control group, according to a new study reported in the Sleep Medicine journal (5).
How To Manage Erectile Dysfunction Secondary To Health Issues?
- In most cases, seeking help for the management of primary health issues can play a major role in regaining sexual vigor.
- Speak to your doctor in order to learn more about the reliable and safe methods to address your ED symptoms. For example, you can always opt for alternative drug regimens if you ED is due to current medical regimen. Likewise, certain ED management options are more superior to others, depending upon your existing health issues.
1. Banks, E., Joshy, G., Abhayaratna, W. P., Kritharides, L., Macdonald, P. S., Korda, R. J., & Chalmers, J. P. (2013). Erectile dysfunction severity as a risk marker for cardiovascular disease hospitalisation and all-cause mortality: a prospective cohort study. PLoS Med, 10(1), e1001372.
2. Selvin, E., Burnett, A. L., & Platz, E. A. (2007). Prevalence and risk factors for erectile dysfunction in the US. The American journal of medicine, 120(2), 151-157.
3. Beits, C. D., Jones, S. J., Fowler, C. G., & Fowler, C. J. (1994). Erectile dysfunction in multiple sclerosis Associated neurological and neurophysiological deficits, and treatment of the condition. Brain, 117(6), 1303-1310.
4. Kupelian, V., Hall, S. A., & McKinlay, J. B. (2013). Common prescription medication use and erectile dysfunction: results from the Boston Area Community Health (BACH) survey. BJU international, 112(8), 1178-1187.
5. Chen, K. F., Liang, S. J., Lin, C. L., Liao, W. C., & Kao, C. H. (2016). Sleep disorders increase risk of subsequent erectile dysfunction in individuals without sleep apnea: a nationwide population-base cohort study. Sleep Medicine, 17, 64-68.