Although it normally takes only a few minutes or less for a man to get an erection, many complex physiological processes take place that allow it to happen. The brain and hormones interact with blood vessels, nerves, and muscles to direct blood flow to the penis. This allows it to remain firm enough for the man and his partner to complete the act of sexual intercourse.
When one or more of these functions doesn’t work properly, blood doesn’t flow to the penis as it should. Even though you may feel emotionally and physically aroused, you may not be able to get an erection at all or it may not be firm enough to initiate or complete the act of intercourse.
In normal circumstances, physical and emotional arousal causes blood to flow into the two erection chambers of the penis. This process also makes the penis transform from soft and spongy to firm and erect. During orgasm, another set of nerve signals reaches muscular tissues in the penis and causes them to relax. When this happens, blood flows away from the penis and back into the bloodstream. The penis then returns to normal size.
Both Mental and Physical Health Issues Can Cause Erectile Dysfunction
Physical health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes have a strong tie to erectile dysfunction. The same is true of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Sometimes the cause is obvious, such as a known diabetes diagnosis or stress about money. Other times the erectile dysfunction is the first indication of a previously unknown problem like heart disease. We discussed some of the most common causes of erectile dysfunction in a previous post. Keep in mind that more than one factor may be causing your difficulty with getting or maintaining an erection.
Indications You Could Have Erectile Dysfunction
Most men occasionally struggle with the ability to achieve an erection or maintain one long enough to complete sexual intercourse. If this happens to you occasionally, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a physical or emotional issue causing restricted blood flow to the penis. However, it’s worth a visit to a urologist if impotence becomes a frequent issue.
The most common and obvious sign of erectile dysfunction is not being able to get or sustain an erection. You may also feel a reduced desire for physical intimacy with your partner, with or without an actual physical issue. Whatever the situation, there’s no need to feel embarrassed about it. Your doctor has likely helped thousands of men with the same problem, and it’s one that millions of men around the country share. He or she will speak to you about your symptoms, complete a physical exam if necessary, and let you know the options for treating erectile dysfunction.
Consider Including Your Partner in Treatment
Your partner should understand that you didn’t develop this condition on purpose and that you still desire to have a satisfying physical relationship. Although you may both feel disappointed, it’s important not to let that stop you from getting the help you need. Including your partner in discussions and appointments with your urologist can help both of you feel empowered in the fight against erectile dysfunction.
It’s also important to follow your doctor’s recommendations. For example, only take the specified amount of medication if you receive it and make any recommended lifestyle changes. Some of these may include quitting smoking, losing weight, or reducing stress. Although change isn’t always easy, the reward is that erectile dysfunction will be less of a problem and you and your partner can look forward to time in the bedroom again.