Beyond ED: Understanding 6 Sexual Problems for Men
Just about every man will have some sort of sexual problem during his lifetime – but not nearly enough of them will discuss them with their doctors, or even their partners.
Erectile dysfunction, or ED, which is trouble getting or maintaining an erection, gets a lot of attention, but many men suffer from equally troubling sexual problems, explains Ali Dabaja, M.D., a urologist at Henry Ford Health System. What’s more, many sexual problems occur at the same time as ED, so it’s almost a chicken-and-egg-type scenario. Issues like premature ejaculation, for example, can lead to erectile dysfunction.
Here, Dr. Dabaja highlights six of the most common sex problems among men — and what you can do about them.
- Erectile dysfunction. If you have trouble getting or maintaining an erection that is firm enough to have sex, you may be suffering from erectile dysfunction (ED). Since erectile dysfunction occurs when there’s not enough blood flow to the penis to sustain an erection, many cases can be linked to a physical conditions, such as vascular disease, thyroid imbalances, diabetes and hypertension. It can also be caused by psychological conditions, such as anxiety, stress and depression. And while the ED is more common among men over the age of 50, it can happen at any age.
The fix: Make an appointment with your doctor to test for and rule out an underlying medical cause. There are a number of effective treatments, including oral medications, to correct ED.
- Premature ejaculation. If you ejaculate before or very soon after initiating sexual activity, you could be experiencing premature ejaculation. While it’s best known as a nuisance to younger men who are just beginning to explore a sexual relationship, it happens in men of all ages at about the same rate. In fact, it can serve as a warning sign for erectile dysfunction among older men, or underlying anxiety disorder.
The fix: Most men can learn to control premature ejaculation without medication or medical intervention. Meeting with a sex therapist can help simplify the process.
- Delayed ejaculation. Delayed ejaculation occurs when you have trouble climaxing during intercourse, or after prolonged sexual stimulation. It can be caused by nerve damage, or thyroid disease.
The fix: Treatment for delayed ejaculation depends on the cause. In many cases, working with a sex therapist can help resolve the problem—and make sex more enjoyable, too.
- Peyronie’s disease. If your penis has a curvature that causes pain during an erection, you could have a rare condition called Peyronie’s disease. Chances are, you’ll notice a lump or bump on the top or bottom of your penis.
The fix: Doctors can inject medication to dissolve the hard bumps. If that doesn’t work, surgery is another option.
- Low testosterone. Testosterone levels peak at 18 and begin to decline as we age . Even with this natural decline over time, most men make enough testosterone throughout their lives to avoid sexual problems. If you’re experiencing a lack of desire, ED, feeling down, and have concerns about your testosterone level, a simple blood test will uncover whether or not you’re running low.
The fix: Taking supplemental testosterone with a doctor’s prescription.
- Low desire. While most men don’t want to discuss it, low sexual desire is a fairly common concern. The disinterest may stem from fear, anxiety or stress related to another sexual issue (such as premature ejaculation). It can also be related to relationship troubles, or other psychological issues. Medical conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, depression and Parkinson’s disease—and the medications to treat these and other conditions—can also interfere with desire, so it’s important to check in with your doctor.
The fix: If low testosterone is causing disinterest in sex, supplementing the hormone can help. Depression is another common culprit. Talk to your doctor and your partner to get to the root of the problem and take action to correct it.
Sex is very important to health and well-being; and not just among men. If you are suffering from sexual challenges, chances are, your partner is struggling, too. Be aware, too, that sexual difficulties can be a sign of or be masking serious conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and depression.
Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. Once correctly diagnosed, there is plenty you can do to improve your life in the bedroom. Your primary care provider can address the most common concerns. In more complex situations, he or she may refer you to a specialty urology clinic. At Henry Ford, sex therapists work side-by-side with urologists. “Our clinic is equipped to address both the physical and emotional causes of sexual problems,” says Dr. Dabaja.
To find a primary care doctor or make an appointment, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).
Dr. Ali Dabaja is a urologist specializing in a reproductive medicine and sexual health with the Henry Ford Vattikuti Urology Institute.