Erectile dysfunction: Sex therapist reveals how to avoid it
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ED is caused by a mix of psychological and physical factors. Some of the most common contributing factors include hardening of the blood vessels (atherosclerosis) – caused by a buildup of “bad” cholesterol – and diabetes. But ED may also be a sign that STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea have been damaging your body.
STIs can spark infections in the prostate gland, an organ where fluid is produced that mixes with sperm to create semen, and other parts of the reproductive system.
These infections can cause improper blood flow to the genitals, according to Harvard University.
The University explained: “In the past, it was thought that most cases of erectile dysfunction were psychological in origin, the result of such demons as performance anxiety or more generalised stress.
“While these factors can cause erectile dysfunction, doctors now think that 70 percent of the time the problem can be traced to a physical condition that restricts blood flow, hampers nerve functioning, or both.”
They are known as male accessory gland infections (MAGIs) that inflame much of the reproductive tract, including the prostate and testes.
Gonorrhoea, for example, can trigger an infection called epididymitis, which is an infection in damage to a pathway called the epididymis – a coiled tube at the back of the testicle. This has been connected to ED.
Gonorrhoea is likely to come with other symptoms, including painful bowel movements, anal itching and bloody discharge from the penis.
Chlamydia is another STI that can cause an infection of the prostate, that triggers swelling that reduces blood flow to the penis.
For men, chlamydia has a few warning signs although it can often go months undetected.
The NHS explains that its main symptoms for men include pain when urinating, pain in the tummy or pelvis, and pain during sex.
MAGIs, which affect the prostate and other parts of the reproductive tract, may be triggered by conditions other than STIs.
Prostatitis, an infection that causes inflammation of the prostate, can be caused naturally by old age.
Complications of this condition include semen abnormalities, infertility, as well as ED.
Another likely cause of ED is diabetes. When blood sugar levels are badly controlled, it can damage small vessels in the penis and nerves.
Nerves are responsible for sexual stimulation, so when they are damaged it becomes difficult for the penis to become firm enough for sex.
If you’re struggling with erectile dysfunction, it is important to visit your doctor as ignoring it may mean you’re also ignoring the underlying causes – which could become more serious if left untreated.
Mayo Clinic explains: “Your doctor will consider underlying causes of your erectile dysfunction and can give you information about medication and other erectile dysfunction treatments.
“Ask your doctor if you’re taking any medications that might be worsening your erectile problems, such as drugs used to treat depression or high blood pressure. Making a change to your medications might help.”
As part of your appointment, you’ll also receive basic health checks like blood pressure.
You can also visit a sexual health clinic, where you do not require an appointment and you’ll often get test results quicker than GP practices.
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