Q: Can erectile dysfunction (ED) be indicative of a more serious health concern?

A: Yes! Thank you for this important question, for most men are unaware that erectile dysfunction can be an early indicator of more serious health problems, most of which can be addressed with the proper treatment. 

Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is the inability to achieve and maintain an erection long enough to have sex. Most men find the condition highly emasculating and difficult to discuss, even with professional health care providers. This is unfortunate because ED can be alleviated or cured when properly treated and it is critical to your overall health and wellness to identify the underlying cause of your condition.

There are many internal systems involved in your ability to get an erection, including your blood vessels, hormones, nerves, muscles, and emotional state. A problem with any one of these systems can lead to erectile dysfunction. One of the more common root causes is cardiovascular disease or abnormal function of the arteries and blood vessels.

Cardiovascular disease occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries, damaging the blood vessels and reducing blood flow to the heart. Blood flow is also critical to creating and maintaining an erection. When a man is sexually stimulated, his arteries widen so that the penis can fill with blood and become erect. When the blood vessels weaken and fill with plaque, blood flow to the penis is compromised, resulting in weaker erections. In more severe cases, men are unable to achieve an erection at all.

The blood vessels in the penis are among the smallest in the body, so any vascular issues will be experienced there first. Like a canary in a coal mine, erectile dysfunction can be thought of as an early warning signal. It is imperative to consult with a qualified doctor to identify and treat the root cause of the problem before it compromises more than just your sex life.

Detecting the underlying cause of ED begins with an open, honest discussion about the problem, including when it began and any recent significant life changes, emotional concerns, or psychological issues. Your doctor will also review your complete medical history and perform a thorough physical exam, which may include blood and urine tests. Once the root cause of your condition is identified, your doctor will recommend a treatment plan that meets your needs and lifestyle. Fortunately, there are many effective treatments for erectile dysfunction available today.

The most well-known are oral medications, such as Viagra and Cialis. These medications work by enhancing the effects of a natural chemical produced by the body called nitric oxide, which helps to relax the muscles and increases blood flow in the penis.  However, these drugs only provide temporary relief for some and can have unwanted side-effects.

Should diagnostic testing indicate low testosterone, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy can help to restore hormone levels to a more healthy, balanced state. As men age, testosterone levels decline, creating a range of unwanted symptoms, including fatigue, increased body fat, sleeplessness, irritability, depression, low libido, and erectile dysfunction. Bioidentical hormone therapy restores lost testosterone to improve both sexual performance and overall quality of life.

For patients found to have cardiovascular concerns, there are specialized treatments now available that can quickly improve the health and function of the blood vessels and nerve tissues that supply blood to the penis for more immediate relief of erectile dysfunction. These groundbreaking, minimally-invasive treatments, known as “platelet rich plasma therapy” (also called the P-shot) and “wave therapy,” can help men achieve erections on their own, naturally and spontaneously, without the aid of medication.

P-shot therapy or platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy is an all-natural approach that uses a patient’s own healing blood platelets to treat erectile dysfunction. Our blood naturally contains platelets with powerful healing “growth factors” that stimulate stem cell production and blood vessel formation. P-Shot Therapy involves separating these platelets from a blood sample and injecting them strategically into the body. The injection floods the target area with restorative blood cells that immediately begin revitalizing the muscle, tissue, and nerves. Your body’s own natural healing growth factors work to improve the health of your erectile tissue, stimulate the formation of new blood vessels, and increase blood flow to the penis, resulting in stronger erections and enhanced sexual sensitivity and stamina.

P-shot treatment is quick, works within four to six weeks, and has almost no side effects or risks.

Wave therapy uses high-frequency / low intensity wave energy to break up micro-plaque in blood vessels, stimulate the growth of new blood vessels, and regenerate nerve tissues in the penis. It is performed with a hand-held device, coated with a special ultrasound gel and placed upon the target area for about ten to 20 minutes. Treatments are quick, pain-free, risk-free, and have no side-effects. Wave therapy usually provides results in about four to six weeks that can last up to three years. The resulting improvements, which include stronger, more sustainable erections and enhanced sexual pleasure.

In addition, I strongly advise patients at risk for heart disease to make meaningful lifestyle changes, including a more nutritious diet, regular exercise, less alcohol consumption, and no smoking. Such changes can improve a man’s overall health and wellness, reduce his risk of serious heart disease, and help to resolve erectile dysfunction over time.

Every person is unique and therefore requires a treatment plan that is customized to his specific individual needs. Many erectile dysfunction patients require a combination of treatment options to address their condition. That is why it is critical to seek help from a qualified medical professional before starting any treatment. And remember, the sooner you identify and treat the root cause of your condition, the sooner you can correct it and resume a healthy, rewarding sex life. t

Dr. Eric Nager is a board-certified physician specializing in integrative medicine and is director of wellness at Belcara Health in Baltimore. Dr. Nager uses his extensive knowledge of the body as a foundation for identifying and treating disease processes. He focuses on preventing chronic diseases through the integration of functional and traditional medicine, education and lifestyle changes to help patients enjoy healthier, happier, more vibrant lives. Learn more about Dr. Nager and Belcara Health at Belcarahealth.com or call 410-296-0414.

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Belcara Health
Belcara Health
Where health and beauty blend.

Belcara Health is a unique, multidisciplinary practice offering Plastic Surgery, Dermatology, Ophthalmology, Wellness and Skincare services - all under one roof. The practice’s renowned specialists collaborate to provide a continuum of care with integrated, personalized services and procedures designed to help patients live happier, healthier, more vibrant lives – now, and for the years ahead.

Dr. Michael Cohen, Plastic Surgeon
Dr. Gary Vela, Plastic Surgeon
Dr. Bradley Robertson, Plastic Surgeon
Dr. Nadia Mostovich, Facial Plastic Surgeon
Dr. Ciro Martins, Dermatologist
Dr. Richard Adler, Ophthalmologist
Dr. Eric Nager, Integrative Medicine
Dr. Andrew London, OBGYN

Belcara Health / 1427 Clarkview Road / Suite 300 / Baltimore, MD 21209 /
BelcaraHealth.com / 410.296.0414