When a young man thinks of erectile dysfunction, he probably imagines a 60 or 70 year old senior suffering impotence as a result of old age. However, this perception is misleading. Many men of all ages suffer from ED, as old as 70 or 80, but sometimes as young as the 20s, 30s, and sometimes even in the teenage years.
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How Does Erectile Dysfunction Occur?
Erectile dysfunction is also not exclusively referring to impotence. ED can also mean weak erection, fast and weak orgasms, the inability to stay hard, and even premature ejaculation—especially if you’ve always had good staying power and are suddenly feeling the effects.
You usually don’t feel ED coming right away—it’s not like a switch is turned off when you hit a certain age. Rather, over time, you simply notice that you don’t get hard as easily, or that it takes more stimulation to get and maintain an erection.
What gives? It may be particularly concerning if you’re still a young adult and don’t have any health issues that you know of. Why does a man’s penis just seem to “give out”?
Tip: you might also want to check out my article about onset of erectile dysfunction.
How Does Erectile Dysfunction Occur in Most Men?
There is no one simple answer because there are a variety of reasons why ED may occur. Healthline states that the inability to maintain a firm erection could be something as simple as stress (in life, in a relationship or performance anxiety) or it could be entirely psychological, having to do distrust or even emotional disorders.
Far more importantly, erectile dysfunction can be caused by physical ailments—including the very real threat of heart disease. The idea of linking ED with heart attack and stroke is fairly recent and only in modern times do doctors and sex therapists alike proactively tell their patients to get physically checked, especially in cases of prolonged ED.
Problems with erection strength that surpass the two month mark, and that can’t be traced to a psychological issue, could be a sign of a major condition, including:
- Cardiovascular disease
- High cholesterol or blood pressure
- Prolonged alcohol abuse
- Smoking or other drug use
- Metabolic syndrome
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Or a combination of factors
Years ago, many people thought ED wasn’t related to health, only sexual fulfillment. Sex was a “luxury” of youth and not a need of every man. Worse yet, many had the notion that ED was a natural part of aging. That is completely false.
While it’s true that older men can go through “andropause”, which is the male equivalent of menopause, and experience a drop in testosterone and sex drive, this does NOT mean that he will become impotent or have frequent problems with becoming hard.
Usually what happens is that men become less active, continue poor eating habits, and refrain from healthy exercise. They figure their libido will stay the same because they’re “always horny.” Not so. If anything, a raging libido is a sign of good health. That means that if a man suddenly loses interest in sex, or has to pound his penis just to keep an erection, that there may be a physical problem to be concerned about.
Not talking to a doctor for cases of premature ejaculation may be optional and unwise, in that it taxes the relationship. In the case of erectile dysfunction, it could literally be life-threatening. A doctor’s priority would be to rule out dangerous heart conditions first, and then proceed to other physical processes, and then finally to psychological issues.
Why Is It So Easy to Get Hard When Younger?
It’s true that many younger men tend to get hard easy, stay hard with little problem, and then have a short “refractory” or recovery period, before going round two and three.
This doesn’t mean that all young men are the same. Some younger men also deal with erectile dysfunction. They may have psychological issues, such as performance anxiety, or problems with body image.
Still, the majority of ED sufferers are older and do find it naturally difficult to make love the same way they did 20 years ago. This doesn’t mean aging gives you ED. Instead, aging brings about a drop in testosterone and so the challenge is laid in front of the average man—to stay physically active, to eat better and to engage in daily activities that promote testosterone and a healthy libido.
An erection is the result of blood flowing easily into your penis, and all over the rest of your body, from a healthy heart. No, you’re not always horny because you’re a pervert! You’re always horny as a young man blood flows easily. Sexual thoughts can trigger erections within seconds. Even direct contact, or no contact at all, fires up erections.
When a man does become excited, the muscles in the penis actually relax—and this is what allows blood flow to accumulate in the arteries. The corpora cavernosa is filled with blood, which starts the penis growing from soft and supple to firm and rigid.
How does erectile dysfunction occur and why? Because for some reason, either the man prevents sexual thoughts and excitement from getting through, or his penile arteries physically prevent the blood flow from occurring at full capacity. This may be because the arteries are too narrow and don’t allow the proper amount of blood flow.
A doctor’s diagnosis will result not only from an interview and from checking your blood pressure, lungs and penis and prostate, but also perhaps a special test. This is called a Nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT) test, which tests your ability to have nocturnal erections. This gives the doctor a better idea of how your penis operates normally. Obviously a lack of erections in this test indicates major physical blockage.
How Severe is Your ED?
According to Steady Health, there are degrees of erectile dysfunction and mild impotence or weak erections, may actually be indicative of psychological issues. Severe impotence indicates a major blockage. However, mild or moderate impotence may simple involve a weak erection that can still ejaculate, or perhaps more manual stimulation needed to stay hard over 3-10 minute period.
Often times men are unaware that they are suffering from ED because of performance anxiety, guilt, problems with their partner, shyness about sex, poor body image, general anxiety and depression.
Don’t ever underestimate the important of your masculine ego. If you feel low in mood or suffer from feelings of humiliation, clinical depression, or anxiety of pleasing your partner, then this will directly affect your ability to stay hard and ejaculate normally. Younger men may be able to stay hard even in the depths of depression, but as you age (even into the 30s) you feel every little problem, physical and mental, right away.
At the same time, it’s important not to overreact to ED symptoms—especially if you’ve just noticed the problem in the last few days. A man, even a very young man, can lose erections because of drinking too much, fatigue, a lack of attraction to a woman, or simply because he’s worrying about work rather than focusing on erotic feelings and thoughts. This kind of ED shouldn’t bring on panic mode. This is completely normal and this short-term ED affects men of all ages, body sizes and walks of life.
Persistent ED, particularly if you are under the age of 50, should be checked out as soon as it’s evidence the problem is ongoing and not just a bad day. The reason being, according to such sites as WebMD, the age that most men contend with recurring ED is 50. Urologists claim that upwards of 90 percent of all ED cases are observed in men over 50.
This is the age of andropause as well, which sees a lowering of testosterone. According to the Mayo Clinic, however, testosterone levels differ greatly among men. Men may start the decline as early as 30 but may still have easy erections until 40, 50 and beyond. Just because testosterone falls does not mean that ED immediately happens.
A blood test will reveal with very low testosterone is the case of ED. In addition symptoms like sleep disturbances, changes in moods, and changes in sexual patterns can be telling. In unusual but not rare cases, low testosterone can also cause physical changes, such as a shrinking of the testes, swollen breasts, loss of body hair, fatigue and even decreased bone density.
Other physical factors may also cause the loss of testosterone, including thyroid problems, or sleep apnea. If this is the case, then keep in mind sometimes testosterone returns to higher levels once these other factors are dealt with. Even treating depression may cause a spike in testosterone. So it’s important that men stop seeing aging as the “end all” for testosterone. Testosterone is merely one piece of the whole puzzle in determining what causes ED.
Understanding Treatment When Considering How Does Erectile Dysfunction Occur?
The treatment plan will depend on whether the problems are physical, psychological, or both. If the process is physical but not at a critical stage yet, then a doctor will most definitely recommend lifestyle changes to reduce obesity, get the heart and muscles into better shape, and eat healthier foods. A more active lifestyle also helps to improve sleep, another necessary part of maintaining an active sex life, because of serotonin levels.
If the situation is critical, the most radical solution would be heart surgery, though this is certainly not common. Taking heart medication would be a conservative treatment plan.
In cases of major impotence that are not related to heart function and blood flow, you have the option of radical treatment or more conservative choices as well. Some ED medicines are as easy as popping a pill, like Viagra or Cialis, while others are injectable directly into the penis.
Be very careful when venturing into herbal products, especially ones that have not been widely reviewed. While supplements like Yohimbine, Horny Goat Weed and L-Arginine have been studied and generally accepted as possible solutions, there are also many online products that have not been FDA approved and that may be total scams or even dangerous to your health.
WebMD also describes more radical medical procedures to consider, though these are usually in extreme cases where a man has suffered damage to the genitals or prostate. For example, a penile implant or vascular reconstructive surgery can help to manually fix blood flow problems. A less invasive procedure would be using a vacuum pump, which sees a tube slid over the penis, an elastic c-ring, as well as a pump that sucks air out of the cylinder, sending more blood to the genitals. This is frequently used for problems with venous leakage.
Problems with ED are not easy to diagnose, but the bright side is that once a doctor can identify the key issue, treatment is fairly straight forward. If you’re concerned about the lack of romance or spontaneity with some of these solutions, remember that good communication with a partner can help to keep things sexy. Not talking about it and avoiding it because of shame or shyness is only going to make matters worse.
A man suffering from ED can use sex toys or learn the erotic arts like Kama Sutra or Tantra, which promote avoiding orgasm and ejaculation and instead focusing on sensuality. Indeed, some men have learned to separate orgasm from ejaculation entirely because they fully explored the joy of emotional intimacy and mental arousal.
Then again, this may all be worrying for nothing. Chances are, if you’re in reasonably good health and have an occasional problem with ED there are easy psychological fixes to look into. Work on increasing communication with your partner. Work on more attentively focusing on your partner during sex rather than psyching yourself out over performance anxiety. Try to avoid eating too much junk or alcohol if you anticipate having an all-nighter of sex.
What really matters is that you take steps to address the problem, rather than just ignoring the issue and hoping it goes away. It might go away within a couple of days. But if it persists, you owe it to yourself and your partner to get help. Not just to save your life but also to continue being the “iron man” you always have been when it comes to satisfying a woman!