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It is well-recognized that adults of all ages view sex as an important quality-of-life issue, and that the imposition of ED usually results in a reduced quality of life. In spite of this and for a number of reasons— most of them unfounded— the victims often suffer in silence. Included among the reasons for their silence are the following conceptions:
A precise determination of the cause of any individual case of ED is often difficult and may be impossible because ED is often due to multiple factors. This is a consequence of the complicated nature of the human sexual response and the complex physiology of penile erection and relaxation. Normal erectile function requires the coordination of vascular, neurologic, hormonal and psychological factors and any condition that interferes with one or more of these processes may result in ED.
Attitudes concerning age and psychological factors, commonly associated with ED in the past, have changed in the last two decades. Although the prevalence of ED increases with advancing age, ED is no longer regarded as an inevitable consequence of aging. Whereas most cases of ED were once considered primarily psychological and/or psychiatric in origin, it is now well-recognized that organic, non-psychological causes of ED play a much more significant role in the development of ED. Most researchers agree that pure psychological (emotional) mechanisms are causative in 15% to 20% of cases with organic causes responsible for at least 80% of ED cases. In a number of cases, the situation is "mixed," with significant secondary psychological and social components such as guilt, depression, anxiety, tension or marital discord being present in addition to one or more underlying organic components.
Causes of ED may be grouped into those factors that arise within the individual (endogenous) and those factors arising from sources outside the body (exogenous). Endogenous factors include endocrine imbalances, cardiovascular and other medical conditions, and emotional causes. Included among exogenous factors are medications, surgery, trauma and irradiation, smoking, and alcohol and substance abuse. Many of these causes are discussed in more detail in the following list of causes:
The identification of risk factors for ED has an important impact not only on the treatment, but on the prevention of ED as well. For example, if a doctor is treating a patient for high blood pressure who is also at risk for ED, the doctor may make an informed decision to prescribe an effective medication that is not associated with ED instead of one that is.
ED AS A MARKER FOR OTHER DISEASES.The frequent association between ED and a number of important vascular conditions such as hypertension and coronary artery heart disease has raised the possibility that ED may serve as an important marker for the detection of these vascular disorders. Additionally, an increased incidence of depression has been noted in men with ED that is believed to be distinct from the reactive type of depression that might occur because of ED. This has led to the recognition of a possible syndrome linking depression and ED. Thus, the presence of depression should be investigated in men presenting with ED.
Author Info: Ralph Myerson M.D., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, 2003
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