Erectile dysfunction — Don't ignore the underlying cause

Taking Viagra, Levitra or Cialis without treating the original problem may improve sexual performance. But it doesn't address the root cause of this symptom. Getting proper treatment for the underlying cause of erectile dysfunction may help prevent related health problems and improve sexual function as well. Conditions that can cause or worsen erectile dysfunction include:

  • Heart disease. In some cases, erectile dysfunction is the first sign of serious heart or blood vessel problems such as hardened arteries (atherosclerosis).
  • Diabetes. Over time, diabetes can damage blood vessels and nerves, making it more difficult to get or keep an erection.
  • Psychological issues. Depression and anxiety can cause sexual problems and often require treatment, such as counseling or medications, to get better.
  • Being overweight. Being overweight or obese can cause or worsen erectile dysfunction because of hormonal changes and related cardiovascular issues. Increased physical activity and losing weight can improve your overall health and sexual function.
  • Low testosterone. Men who have low testosterone levels (hypogonadism) may need testosterone replacement therapy to increase sex drive and sexual performance.
  • Lifestyle choices. Unhealthy habits such as drinking too much alcohol, smoking, using illegal drugs and not getting regular exercise can all worsen erectile dysfunction.

Purchasing Viagra, Levitra or Cialis online

As with other prescription drugs, erectile dysfunction medications can be purchased over the Internet. But be careful. Products for erectile dysfunction are big business, and online scams abound. If you do purchase medications over the Internet:

  • Check to see if an online pharmacy is legitimate. Never order medications from an online pharmacy if there's no way to contact the pharmacy by phone, if prices seem too good to be true or if you're told no prescription is necessary. Some illegal businesses sell counterfeit versions of legitimate medications, which can be ineffective or dangerous. In the U.S., the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy can tell you whether an online pharmacy is licensed and in good standing.
  • Make sure you get the right prescription and the right dose. When you order medications — and when you receive them in the mail — make sure they're the exact dose and type prescribed by your doctor.
  • Don't be fooled into buying 'herbal viagra.' Never take any medications that claim to be the "herbal" or nonprescription equivalent of Viagra, Levitra or Cialis. These aren't an effective replacement for prescription medications, and some contain harmful substances.

Realistic expectations

Occasional erectile dysfunction is a common problem, particularly as men age. Medication may not make you feel like you're 20 again, but it might help you achieve a more satisfying sex life. For some men, Viagra, Levitra and Cialis aren't a safe or effective choice, but other treatment options for erectile dysfunction may work. These include medications that are injected into the penis or put into the opening of the penis before sex, penis pumps (vacuum constriction devices), and surgically placed penis implants. Work with your doctor to find which erectile dysfunction treatment might work best for you.

Jun. 06, 2012 See more In-depth