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Health Watch: What’s Behind Erectile Dysfunction?

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Oftentimes, when we think about men’s health, we think about sexual issues like erectile dysfunction (ED). That’s usually what prompts a man to make an appointment with his doctor. And while ED might be frustrating, it’s also important to recognize that there could be an underlying vascular issue that needs to be addressed.

Many men experience some form of sexual complications, like ED, at some point in their lives. ED can also be sign of a physical or psychological condition, causing stress, relationship strain, and/or low self-confidence.

In most cases, ED is a vascular problem, due to conditions like diabetes or heart disease that’s gone undiagnosed. It can also be related to prostrate surgery, cancer treatment or hormonal factors.

Dr. Clay McDonough, SLUCare Urologist at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital says, "The bulk of patients, roughly 70%, have some sort of vascular component behind it. That is tied into high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol."

The Men's Health Center at SLUCare is specifically designed to support sexual dysfunction.

Unlike women, who are generally good about having regular check-ups, men don’t always demonstrate that same level of commitment to their health. In fact, some men admit that they haven’t had a physical since high school. As a result, those vascular issues are never diagnosed and/or treated.

That’s why establishing a solid relationship with a men’s health specialist is so important. It’s an opportunity to do a full assessment to identify any issues – or potential issues – before they lead to unpleasant side effects, like ED, or something worse, like a heart attack.

Once a male patient has had a full medical assessment done, it’s easier to pinpoint the cause of his ED or other sexual disorder and find an optimal solution.

Treatments include oral medications (Viagra, Cialis), testosterone replacement and/or penis pumps.  If drugs are not effective, patients can consider surgery.  Dr. McDonough says, "We can replace the inner workings of the erectile chambers with either hydraulics or semi-rigid devices that will provide a very close anatomic representation of an erection.  It's a good operation. Patients are so happy afterwards. It is really nice to be able to provide that to folks."

The device works on demand with the patient squeezing a small pump that sits below the scrotum. Saline then moves into the implanted chambers from a reservoir in the lower abdomen. The patient presses a release valve when done. Satisfaction post-procedure is well above 90 percent.

For men, loss of sexual desire or the inability to perform sexually may have more than physical effects; it can impact self-esteem, emotional health and intimate relationships. Moreover, male sexual dysfunction is often a sign of a more serious underlying condition, such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease or diabetes. That’s why it’s important to seek help from a team of specialists who look beyond symptoms to identify and treat the core cause of the problem.

To learn more about SLUCare's Men's Health Center, click here.

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