Erectile Dysfunction: Causes, Treatments, and Cautions

Erectile dysfunction is something that can strike men of any age and for just about any reason. It can be caused by an unknown heart condition, diabetes, a number of other health issues, or it might just be a temporary condition brought on by stress, fatigue, or nerves.

When do you need to see a doctor about the condition, and when do you just wait it out and try to be patient with yourself? What sort of treatments can you try at home, and what can your doctor do for you? Here's what you should know.

When you should see a doctor

Start with your family doctor if your condition has been going on for longer than a month or two, and you really can't connect it with any particular nerves (like a change in sexual partners) or stress. If you have a known medical condition that can affect your ability to get or maintain an erection, like diabetes, heart disease, or a history of prostate problems, see your doctor sooner. The erectile dysfunction could be the sign of a larger problem.

Similarly, if you simply find that you have a sudden and marked change in your sexual drive or libido altogether--again, not associated with any major stress in your life--see your doctor sooner. That could be a sign of some underlying illness that needs to be addressed.

Which over-the-counter treatments work

If you want to try an over-the-counter (OTC) treatment, it's important to discuss the issue with your physician first. Many OTC erectile dysfunction pills contain ingredients that can cause some people to experience dangerous drops in blood pressure. Avoid OTC treatments that don't list their ingredients on the package, and stay conscious of the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned consumers about potential risks of some specific erectile dysfunction treatments sold as "dietary supplements." 

That isn't to say all OTC treatments are bad or unhealthy -- you simply have to be cautious if you have known medical problems, and avoid those OTC pills that aren't considered safe. There are numerous OTC erectile dysfunction medicines that have the backing of medical science; red ginseng has long been used in Chinese medicine for erectile dysfunction and is great for those who also have metabolic syndrome. DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is actually an OTC form of a chemical your adrenal glands produce naturally and is considered a good option for those with diabetes. L-arginine combined with pycnogenol (a product produced from a tree bark) restored erectile functions for 92% of those in a trial study after 3 months.

What prescriptions work

There are several prescription drugs that also work on erectile dysfunction. Viagra and Cialis are probably the two most well-known, but there are others like Staxyn and Levitra that are also effective, among others. However, one issue you want to address with your doctor is whether or not it is safe to get a partner pregnant while using these drugs. While most are considered fairly safe for pregnancy, some drugs like Edex or Caverject Impulse, are not. You also need to ask about alcohol use with each of these drugs and follow the dosage instructions carefully.

For more information about erectile dysfunction causes, pills, and other treatments, talk to your doctor today.