Dear Doc | Erectile dysfunction, can I fix 'it'?
Q Dear Doc, my penis has suddenly stopped working. It was fine before, and I was able to perform with no issues, but for the past month, it refuses to perform, it just won't stay up. It has happened now the last three times I have tried to have sex, and now I am quite concerned. Could it be that I'm just getting old, and that there is something I can do myself to fix this, or do I really have to go to a doctor.
A For years, it was believed that sexual problems were a normal part of growing older, and thanks to modern medicine, we now know that this is a myth and men can remain sexually active well into their 70s and beyond with the help of medications and speaking openly with their doctor.
You described a sexual problem called Erectile Dysfunction, which is the inability to acquire or maintain an erection. There are numerous causes for this such as:
- Anything that limits blood flow to the penis can cause erectile dysfunctions and these include, cigarette smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and normal ageing.
- A stroke, diabetes, spinal cord injury, or prostate surgery that resulted in damage to nerves to the penis, can all cause erectile dysfunction.
- Many commonly prescribed medications, can interfere with male sexual function. Numerous drugs that affect the nervous system and some that affect testosterone levels or it's action can cause erectile dysfunction. Opioids that are often prescribed for chronic pain can also affect sexual function in men. Even some medications for high blood pressure can cause erectile dysfunction.
- Performance anxiety can occur in men who suddenly experience one or more episodes of erectile failures during intercourse. Because of this, men become mentally preoccupied, and the focus of the sexual act shifts from being a sensual experience to one filled with anxiety. In future attempts to have sex, the inability to maintain an erection then becomes the focus of the sexual experience.
- Erectile dysfunction in itself can be a depressing experience for some men. It is common for men to choose to accept a decline in sexual function as a natural consequence of ageing, and because of shame or embarrassment, they hide this problem from their health care provider. This is unfortunate because it is often possible to determine the cause of sexual problems and many options are available to treat it.
Due to the sudden onset of your erectile dysfunction, I would definitely advise you visit your doctor. Reason being, reduced blood flow in the penile arteries can happen before decreased blood flow to other vital organs, such as the heart, begins. Therefore, it is highly advised that you be evaluated for any other cardiovascular risk factors.
Also, things such as medication adjustments are an easy fix, if that is a cause for the problem.
But until you muster up the courage to see your doctor, do not underestimate the benefit of an improved diet and some exercise, which is something you can do yourself to help 'fix it'.
Weird illness a concern
Q Dear Doc, I am wondering if I contracted some weird illness from travelling. I went to China for work and I have been back home a week now and I just cannot seem to stop feeling weak and tired, and my stomach just feels like a mess. Everybody else who went on the trip with me says they are fine, but I can hardly function at work. Do you think it possible that I am the only person in the group that caught something?
A Based on what you have told me, it sounds like you are simply suffering from a case of jet lag.
Jet lag is a condition that causes problems with sleep, and resulting in tiredness, among other symptoms. It happens to people who fly across several time zones, especially when they fly east. The more time zones crossed, the more likely you are to get jet lag.
Jet lag usually gets better on its own, but it can take several days. The farther away from home you travel, the longer it takes to get over the jet lag.
Persons with jet lag will complain of:
- Problems either falling asleep or staying asleep.
- Feeling tired and sleepy during the daytime.
- Having trouble thinking, concentrating, or doing normal activities.
- Stomach problems, such as constipation.
- Feeling sick or having less energy than normal.
Should your symptoms continue without improvement, or new ones that were not listed occur, such as headaches or a fever, please see your doctor.