An A-Z of impotence

The subject of impotence  is vast, with a myriad of causes which can contribute to the condition and much advice provided about what to do to tackle the problem if you are affected.

With so many factors to consider, and suggested tools to help manage impotence effectively, here’s a handy A-Z guide which provides a concise overview of the main subjects.

A is for….arteries

Arteries are the vessels which provide blood to the organs, and which have the ability to widen or constrict depending on the message being received from the brain. In the penis arteries dilate in response to messages from the brain; if there is anything which prevents this message from either being triggered or conveyed, the ability to either develop or maintain an erection can be significantly diminished.

B is for…blood flow

One of the most fundamental components of erections, a healthy blood flow to the penis is essential. On the command from the brain, the arteries in the penis expand allowing more blood to flow in. This extra blood swells and hardens the tissues and it is this which creates the erection. Many treatments are focused on keeping blood in the penis for as long as possible, or increasing the flow.

Smoking is directly linked to Impotence

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C is for…counselling

Regardless of the cause, counselling can be a very helpful way to manage the problem of impotence. Cognitive behavioural therapy helps the individual to address their issues of self-esteem and how they deal with any difficult situations which arise whilst psychosexual counselling is typically conducted with couples and explores thorny issues which may be buried. A psychosexual counsellor may also provide practical tips.

D is for…drug use

Both prescribed and recreational drugs have the ability to interfere with the quality of the erection and may in some cases be the sole cause of impotence. Prescribed drugs may list impotence as a side effect; if this is the case, an alternative can be found. For recreational drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana, blood vessels can be damage resulting in irreversible erectile dysfunction.

E is for…erection

Not everyone understands what the term ‘impotence’ means but in the most basic sense it refers to the inability to develop or maintain an erection. Without an erection it can be difficult to have an intimate sexual relationship but experts suggest taking the emphasis away from the penis, and instead focusing on building intimacy in relationships. Erections are of course very important, but couples shouldn’t neglect the other aspects of their sex life too.

F is for…fun

Relationships should be fun, and this means enjoying each other’s company and simply spending time together. Unfortunately with the many demands of the modern world, it can be easy to drift into bad habits and not make time for each other. Take some time out to kick back and have some fun, and you will find that you will enjoy a far closer and more intimate relationship as a result.

Relationships need to include some time for fun

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G is for…guilt

Impotence is a subject guaranteed to stir up big emotions both for the man and his partner. The man suffering from impotence may be feeling embarrassed as well as guilty for upsetting their partner. While it’s understandable, it’s important to realise that no-one is at fault and that by working together you can make a plan to combat the problem.

H is for…hormones

In some cases, hormones can be to blame for creating an imbalance in the body. This can prevent certain parts from responding as they should, resulting in impotence. Some of the conditions which may be responsible include hypothyroidism and hypogonadism. In these cases it may be possible to consult a specialist and have treatment which corrects the balance. This should resolve any impotence which has been caused by a hormone imbalance.

I is for …injection

Although Viagra and the group of drugs it belongs to are the most common types of treatment for impotence, there is an alternative for those who need another option. Alprostadil is a different type of medication which can cure impotence, and it is administered via an injection directly into the penis. It may also be given via a pellet inserted into the urethra.

J is for…jump around

A sedentary lifestyle can contribute too many health problems, especially when combined with a poor diet. But it’s not just the possibility of developing heart disease and other problems which make exercise so important. Studies have shown that men who lead a more active lifestyle are less likely to go on to suffer from impotency.

K is for…kindness

Discovering that you are suffering from impotence can be a real shock, and the embarrassment can mean you say things you don’t really mean to your partner. Feelings of rejection, shame, isolation and anger can make people say very hurtful things. Think before you speak and ask yourself whether what you are about to say is true and fair.

L is for…lifestyle

Although there may be either psychological or physical causes for impotence, more simplistic factors such as lifestyle can play a very significant role too. Smoking, drinking, excess weight, exercise, stress and drugs can all cause impotence. Improving your lifestyle may reduce the erectile dysfunction, and eliminate the need for further treatment.

M is for…mutual masturbation

If you are unable to maintain an erection, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy sex with your partner. Using a vibrator or other sex toys can produce good results, and it can be helpful to take the emphasis away from penetrative sex. Mutual masturbation can be an exciting alternative and may provide a way for both partners to enjoy the intimacy.

N is for…NHS prescriptions

In some cases treatment for impotence can be prescribed on the NHS. If you are suffering from conditions such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, prostate cancer, kidney failure requiring dialysis and polio to name but a few, you will be entitled to get free prescriptions for Viagra or similar treatments on the NHS. In some cases, if impotence is severely disrupting relationships or causing significant distress it may also be prescribed on the NHS.

Graph showing recovery times following prostrate operation

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O is for…orgasm

Without an erection it is impossible to achieve an orgasm which can be a very frustrating state of affairs. Some sexual therapists suggest that the emphasis placed on the orgasm doesn’t help the cause and can even contribute to anxiety over performance. Certain types of therapy ban sexual contact and orgasm for a number of weeks, allowing couples to only massage each other in non-erotic areas. By re-introducing the sensation of touch in a sexual way, but refraining from penetration and sex for some time helps to emphasise the importance of creating intimacy and enjoying a shared experience, rather than purely the orgasm itself.

P is for…phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors

Also known as PDE-5 inhibitors, this is the group of drugs which is frequently used to treat impotence, including Viagra . With three main different medications used to treat impotence, the drugs are effective in around two thirds of men. Typically taken 30-60 minutes ahead of when an erection is required, PDE-5 inhibitor medication can last up to 8-10 hours, or for 36 hours in the longer-lasting form. PDE-5 can be provided free on the NHS (subject to the normal prescription fee) if certain criteria are met.


Q is for…questions

If you are suffering from impotence you may have many questions about what to expect. It may feel a bit awkward to discuss the matter but your doctor is the best person to talk to and will have dealt with the subject many times before. Write down the questions you would like answered before you attend your appointment, so that even if you get tongue-tied you won’t forget what you wanted to ask.

R is for…relationship

Although there are many causes for impotency, problems with the relationship  can be a factor which is responsible for erectile dysfunction. If there are unresolved issues with your relationship, you may find that you suffer from impotency. Sorting out your relationship problems, either with the help of a counsellor or on your own, can help you to regain your erectile function.

S is for…surgery

There are many different types of treatment for impotency but in the vast majority of cases, surgery is not considered. A very drastic option, surgery is only carried out in the most extreme cases and when all other treatment options have been exhausted. Not available on the NHS, surgery typically involves the insertion of either semi-rigid penile splints or inflatable implants. The latter offers the more natural results but is also more expensive.

T is for…treatment

There are many different types of treatment which can be offered for impotence, including both medicinal and non-invasive methods. Not all types of treatment will be suitable for everyone, and the possible side effects and contraindications will be carefully weighed up by doctors and patients together.

Impotence products in a store

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U is for…urologist

You may be referred to a specialist, particularly if the cause of your impotence is complex or anatomical in origin. If the cause is hormonal, you will be seen by an endocrinologist but in other cases, you will typically be referred to a urologist.

V is for…vacuum pumps

If drug therapy isn’t suitable, or doesn’t work, there are alternative ways to treat impotence which don’t involve medication. Vacuum pumps are made from a clear tube and a pump; the penis is placed inside the tube and the pump is used to remove the air and create a vacuum. This causes blood to rush into the penis, creating an erection. A band is then placed around the base of the penis, stopping the blood from flowing back out. This will create an erection which will remain firm and functional for around 30 minutes.

W is for…widespread

Impotence can be very isolating and as a sufferer, you may feel very alone in facing up to your problem. However, impotence is far more widespread than many sufferers are aware, with as many as half of all men suffering from it at some point in their life. Around the world per 140 million men will suffer with erection problems and impotence.

Impotence the butt of many jokes, but there are far more sufferers than many people would think

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X is for…X-rated

In order for an erection to develop, sexual arousal needs to take place, even if medication has been taken. Enjoying new things in the bedroom together, and daring to try some x-rated activities such as watching adult film or using sex toys, can make sex exciting, which in turn should boost the strength of the erection.

Y is for…younger men

Impotence may often be seen as a problem affecting older men but there are an increasing number of younger men who have erectile problems too. Drug-related impotence is more common amongst younger men and there’s also a greater likelihood of pelvic trauma, such as that sustained in motorcycle accidents. However, the most common cause of impotence in men aged under 40 is anxiety, with performance fears, guilt, confusion over sexual orientation, and relationship problems all more frequently seen in younger men. As further proof that the cause is psychological, morning erections may still occur and masturbation may not be affected.

Z is for…zzzzz’s

If you want to avoid suffering from impotence, you need to learn to take care of yourself and reduce the stresses you put your body under. This includes getting sufficient sleep. If you are fatigued not only will you be more prone to feeling stressed, another cause of impotence, but you will be physically below par too. This means the levels of arousal and the signals to the brain could be dampened, resulting in problems developing an erection. Sleep, eating a good diet which is balanced and exercise are three of the most fundamental ways you can help to prevent impotence.

Image Credits: Wikipedia, Matthew Hunt, Wikipedia, Jeppestown, Lulu Hoeller