ED: Not Man’s Best Friend


African American man in bed insomnia headacheLet’s talk for a minute about our old buddy ED. ED is the kind of guy that is always dropping in, showing up at the most inopportune times, unannounced and uninvited. Though no one is a big fan of ED, the reality is that lots and lots of people want to learn more about ED. You know, just in case he should drop in one day, unannounced and uninvited.

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So who is, or better yet, what is ED? ED is more appropriately known by his common name, “Erectile Dysfunction.” The name erectile dysfunction really doesn’t have much of a ring to it though, and quite frankly it even sounds a little bit threatening and ominous. So most folks just call erectile dysfunction “ED.”

What Is ED?

ED is a condition that affects a man’s ability to both achieve and maintain a healthy erection. Though not a lot of folks talk openly about ED, the reality is that Erectile Dysfunction is a surprising common occurrence among American men. In fact, just over 1 in 5 American men will at some point in their life time suffer from ED. While this 1 in 5 figure is in and of itself shocking, African American men are at an even higher risk still for a visit from ED. In fact, close to 1 in 4 African American men will at some point in their life time suffer from ED.

ED occurs when the blood flow to the penis has been compromised. Under normal circumstances, a healthy erection will result when there is a temporary increase in the flow of blood to the penis after sexual arousal. At the same time that there is this increased flow of blood into the penis, there is a simultaneous decrease in the flow of blood out of the penis. As a result, the penis fills and swells with blood; growing in both length and width as it fills ultimately causing an erection.

What Causes ED?

There are many potential reasons that ED might pay an unsuspecting gentleman a visit. Some of the more common causes of erectile dysfunction however include anxiety, stress, depression, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, kidney disease, alcohol use and abuse, smoking, Gingivitis and poor oral health and neurological conditions like stroke, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. All of these conditions either directly limit the flow of blood to the penis that is necessary to achieve and to maintain an erection after sexual arousal; or they limit the brain’s ability to generate and to then send the neurological signals to the penis and to the blood vessels that supply the penis after arousal has occurred that are necessary for an erection to develop.

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Many times a doctor can diagnose erectile dysfunction simply by taking a patient’s history and then completing a targeted physical exam. When the diagnosis is in question however, further investigation of ED may include ultrasound of the penis. Ultrasound of the penis is done to document how well the blood flows to the penis. If ultrasound is inconclusive, a test called an Overnight Erection Test may then be performed. The Overnight Erection Test can help to determine whether or not someone’s ED is truly physical in nature (i.e., due to poor blood flow to the penis) or more psychological in nature.