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It’s not just older men who suffer from this condition. Here’s how to deal with this bedroom downer.

Jan, 14, 2015

There is a stereotype that the male libido is always in overdrive. A man can be tall, dark and handsome on the outside but have issues on the inside that can be a total deal breaker. Most men take pride in knowing that they can satisfy their woman on a regular basis, but there are times that they just can’t seem to “rise” to the occasion. Get the hint? Every sexually active woman’s been there at least once.

Contrary to popular belief, erectile dysfunction (ED) is not just an older man’s problem. The condition affects approximately 18 million men aged 40-80 in the United States, but men in their 20s can develop it too. One in 10 men will suffer from ED at some point in their life. 

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So, what exactly should you do when your man is exhibiting signs? Start by understanding what it is and what it isn’t. By definition, erectile dysfunction is the inability (or the decreased ability) for a male to achieve an adequate orgasm. 

“Some of the first signs include being unable to obtain an erection at all or unable to maintain an erection because it will go down before climax,” said Dr. Alden Reine, medical director of Cape Fear Valley Urology. “There are various causes, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, medications, stress, low testosterone levels, or the aging process.”  There can also be no specific cause. 

The first step to take is to offer to accompany him to the doctor for a physical to make sure the problem is not the result of an undiagnosed medical condition. “There is a very high link between erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease,” said Reine. “If we discover any underlying medical conditions we refer them to their primary physician and if we do not find any specific causes we will generally start them on one of the oral medications such as Viagra or Cialis.”Men with heart problems and take nitrates cannot take the oral medications that can affect their heart, which leads to other options.  

Remember that erectile dysfunction can be super embarrassing for a man, so be empathetic when discussing it with him. Be supportive and let him know that there are treatments that are proven to be successful, and constantly repeat words of reassurance. Encourage him to make healthier lifestyle choices such as exercising, staying away from alcohol and smoking, and eating healthier.  

If he’s diagnosed with ED, that’s not the end of the road for your sex life. There are various options that can be considered, such as the vacuum erection device, injection therapy, or a penile implant. It’s important not to just kick a lover to the curb because he’s having trouble heating things up between the sheets. Be patient with him and focus on helping him get the proper diagnosis. This is the time to hold hands, take long walks in the park, give him warm hugs and kisses, and let him know that you care.

Dr. Shanessa Fenner is an elementary principal, TV show host, and writer.