About 50% of men experience difficulties related to erections, in men between the age of 40 and 70, according to Harvard Medical School and Boston University. These difficulties, or erectile dysfunctions, are not only affecting the individual because of the way they interfere with or disrupt sexual intimacy, but also as a cause of stress, self-confidence, and the subsequent impact on the relationship.

What is an erection?

When a man is sexually aroused, neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) and enzymes are released, causing an increased blood flow in the penis. This causes the penis to swell and become hard, while preventing blood from flowing away from the penis until the erection starts to disappear.

What are the symptoms of erectile dysfunctions?

  1. An inability to have an erection.
  2. An inability to sustain an erection.
  3. A reduction in sexual desire.

What are the causes of erectile dysfunctions?

One needs to keep in mind that sexual arousal is not simply straightforward; according to Mayo Clinic ‘a combination of physical and psychological issues causing erectile dysfunction’. It involves the interplay of hormones, emotions, nerves, muscles, and blood vessels. Any difficulty with one or more of these aspects may lead to or worsen the erectile dysfunction.

Such factors would include:

  1. Medical conditions.
  2. Substance use.
  3. Overall health and body weight.
  4. Medical treatments and medications.
  5. Psychological difficulties, such as stress, depression, or anxiety.

What are the implications of erectile dysfunctions?

Experiencing an erectile dysfunction may mean that the individual, and partner, are experiencing some sort of dissatisfaction with regards to sexual intimacy. It also affects one’s self-image and may cause insecurity in both parties. When the couple desire pregnancy, this may also be challenged. If one finds it difficult to discuss and communicate about the situation, it may lead to even more frustration and misunderstandings.

What should one do when experiencing ongoing difficulties with erections?

A family doctor or GP is always a good starting place to discuss any concerns and patterns that you may be noting. The medical professional may note other aspects of your health that may be acting as a cause or are resulting as a symptom of the erectile dysfunction.

What are erection pills?

Oral medication is one type of treatment that works by relaxing muscles in the penis and in turn increasing blood flow to achieve an erection following sexual stimulation. These pills do not cause arousal, but when one is aroused and stimulated, they will amplify the process of erection.

Which erection pills are most common?

  1. Sildenafil (Viagra).

This medication is effective for four to five hours and it needs to be taken one hour before sex, avoiding eating before taking it as food prevents its absorption.

  • Vardenafil (Levitra).

This medication is also effective for four to five hours, to be taken an hour before sex and ideally you avoid high-fat meals before taking this pill.

  • Tadalafil (Cialis).

This may be taken with or without food, around an hour or two before sex and it is effective for up to 36 hours. Dosage may be different according to your need.

  • Avanafil (Stendra).

This medication may be taken 30 minutes before sex, and it can be taken with or without food. It lasts up to six hours.

What side effects may these pills cause?

  1. Headaches resulting from the sudden change in blood flow.
  2. Muscular aches or back pain.
  3. Nausea and diarrhoea.
  4. Dizziness and in rare cases fainting.
  5. Vision may be blurred or affected.
  6. Flushes and redness of the skin, which isn’t typically harmful.
  7. Congestion or runny nose.

How do I choose which medication to take?

Since the mentioned medications are similarly effective, producing a sufficient erection in about 70% of men, it is important to consult with your doctor and see which options are available and the cost for each. These may be used in conjunction with therapy to tackle the thought process and emotions involved and which may be playing a part on the dysfunction. There may be other non-medical treatments, such as herbal treatment and a vacuum pump which may help increasing blood flow.

Abigail Church is a Humanistic Integrative Counsellor who works with adults and children through counselling with Willingness. She can be contacted on abigail@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.