Men’s sexual health: what women need to know
For both men and women, sexual health is a fundamental part of physical and emotional well-being. Yet, men are more likely than women to avoid seeking medical attention when they experience symptoms of sexual dysfunction. Because women often take the lead in the family when it comes to healthcare, it’s important for everyone to understand the importance of seeking treatment for this common problem.
Understanding erectile dysfunction
Although there is a wide range of sexual problems that happen in men of all ages, erectile dysfunction (ED) is one that impacts men exponentially as they age. Often, the symptoms are relatively mild. However, by the time men reach their 50s, 60s and 70s, ED affects approximately 50 percent of all men. For nearly 25 percent, the condition is very severe.
Factors that contribute to an increased risk for developing ED include:
- Over 50 years of age
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Enlarged prostate
- History of prostate cancer
- Excessive alcohol or drug use
- Certain medications
Stress, fatigue, depression and other emotional disturbances also can contribute to sexual dysfunction in men. In cases where ED doesn’t have any detectable physical cause, it is often evaluated in the context of mental or emotional well-being.
If someone you know is experiencing sexual dysfunction, encourage him to schedule an exam. Along with discussing symptoms and treatment options, his doctor typically will request bloodwork and in certain instances perform an ultrasound to look at the blood flow to the penis. In many cases, underlying conditions causing the problem are identified, such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease or diabetes.
Treating more than the symptom
Although there are many effective medications for ED, it’s also important to treat the underlying conditions causing it. Often, the first course of treatment is simple lifestyle changes which often improve symptoms.
“Exercise can be as meaningful as a prescription for Viagra,” says Dr. Justin Han, urologist at Northwell Health. “Taking simple steps like getting sufficient sleep and managing stress also can significantly improve bodily function and testosterone levels.”
For men who don’t respond to medication, there are other non-surgical, as well as surgical options.
Avoid over-the-counter supplements
Unlike medications, like Viagra and Cialis, which are widely prescribed to treat symptoms of ED, herbal supplements formulated to boost sexual performance are not tested and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Many men try these supplements before seeking medical help, but they can be risky. Along with having a mix of ingredients that haven’t been proven safe or effective, they can produce unwanted side effects. They also don’t treat any underlying causes of ED. This is why it’s important to first talk to a doctor who can evaluate causes and share risks and benefits of treatment options.
“Although there is a natural decline in erectile function and testosterone levels in all men as they age,” says Dr. Han, “it’s important to take ED seriously and treat it as a medical problem. It’s a misconception that treatment is as easy as popping a pill. The conversation should be an opportunity to determine if your overall health is good and to identify areas that can be improved upon.”
Find out more about sexual health. At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.