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Is Erectile Dysfunction a Normal Part of Aging?

Is Erectile Dysfunction a Normal Part of Aging?

You count on your body to respond to sexual cues and perform flawlessly whenever the desire arises. But it doesn’t always work that way. When you can’t get or keep an erection long enough to have sexual intercourse, you have erectile dysfunction (ED).

This dismaying condition may be only temporary, or it may stem from an underlying health condition. 

Many men assume that ED is inevitable as they age, so they never seek help. But ED is unacceptable at any age, so it's important to find out what’s causing the frustrating and embarrassing problem so you can get the proper treatment.

Help for ED is convenient and discreet at Woodstock Family Practice & Urgent Care in Woodstock, Georgia, and it’s a routine part of our comprehensive men’s health services

After a consultation and a few tests, Dr. James Lee diagnoses the root cause of your ED and helps you get back into action quickly. Here’s what you need to know.

What it takes to get and keep an erection

When all systems are running perfectly, the process of getting and keeping an erection seems simple, but it’s actually quite complex. 

Erections start in your brain. Visual or physical cues tell your brain to activate the nerves in your penis, relaxing the muscles. This allows blood to flow in from nearby arteries and into the spongy spaces (corpora cavernosa) in your penis. 

The drastic increase in volume and pressure translate to enlargement and rigidity — an erection. Anything that interrupts that process can lead to ED. 

Underlying causes of ED

A long list of physical conditions can lead to ED because they disrupt the erection sequence. 

For example, if you have diabetes that results in nerve damage, it can affect the signals that trigger blood flow to your penis.

If you have low testosterone, it can interfere with your arousal impulses. Other physical hindrances to a predictable erection include:

Anxiety and depression can also make it difficult to get an erection, as can tobacco use, heavy alcohol consumption, and some medications.

Treating the underlying cause often resolves the ED symptom, so lifestyle changes, hormone therapy, and treatment of your medical conditions may be the answer.

Age-related ED

Every man who lives long enough is likely to experience ED, so let’s take a look at why this happens.

Vascular problems account for the majority of ED cases, but not due to arterial disease. Rather, it’s connected to the natural loss of smooth muscle cells in the corpora cavernosa, the channels in your penis that fill up with blood. 

As you get older, these muscle cells degrade, and your penis can no longer hold in the blood supply. The fluid leaks out and your erection disappears. 

If the flow of blood from your arteries is too low, a condition called arterial insufficiency, you have trouble getting an erection, and if the blood flows out or “leaks,” you have trouble maintaining an erection. 

Studies show this is common as men age: About 40% of men in their 40s will begin to experience episodes of ED, and the percentage increases by 10% each decade after that. 

The good news is that medication can inhibit the degradation of your cavernous smooth muscle cells with a success rate of up to 76%

If you’re experiencing ED — whether it’s age-related or due to some other issue — Dr. Lee can help you get back to your old self. Call us to schedule an appointment or book online today. 

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