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The Truth About Erectile Dysfunction

Knowing that upwards of 50 percent of men older than 40 have some degree of erectile dysfunction (ED) probably isn’t comforting if you’re one of them.

Many men equate sexual function with manliness, says Laurence Levine, MD, a urologist at Rush University Medical Center.

“ED can reduce self-esteem and make a man more irritable and less productive at work and can affect his interactions at home, ” he says.

That’s true even though the main cause of ED is almost always physical, not psychological, Levine says.

An early warning sign

Most of the time, ED is caused by poor circulation, often brought on by diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol imbalances or smoking.

It’s important to keep in mind that poor circulation and its causes don’t just lead to ED. They can also lead to other serious problems, such as atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque inside blood vessels that can cause a heart attack or stroke.

“ED may be present as early as three to four years before any vascular problems are recognized, ” Levine says. “In fact, it may be the earliest indication of vascular disease. ”

For that reason alone, it’s important to tell your doctor if you are experiencing ED, Levine says.

ED might also be associated with medication side effects, a hormone imbalance, depression, obesity and even an uncommon scarring condition of the penis, called Peyronie’s disease.

ED and prostate cancer

Likewise, many prostate cancer treatments can cause ED. “If you have had prostate cancer treatment, it’s common to experience changes in your ability to get an erection, and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about, ” Levine says. “There are treatments that can help and new prostate cancer treatments with a lower risk of erectile problems. ”

For example, Rush offers prostate cancer patients a high-tech, nerve-sparing surgical technique using the da Vinci Surgical System that allows surgeons to see high-definition images of the prostate. This system enables surgeons to better protect the nerves and other structures that affect erections.

Rush also offers brachytherapy, a precisely targeted radiation therapy, to treat prostate cancer and minimize the risk of ED.

Post-treatment rehabilitation programs, including a comprehensive medication therapy Levine offers at Rush, can encourage nerve regeneration and restore erectile function.

Don’t be in denial

Regardless of the cause, ED should not be ignored, Levine emphasizes. “No matter what your age, if you’re having problems with your erections, talk to your primary care doctor or a urologist and get to the root of the problem. ”

Learn More

To see the da Vinci robot and find out more about prostate health, join us October 16 for a free community wellness event. Call (888) 352-RUSH (7874) to register.


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