Urologist Tobias Kohler, M.D., answers the most frequently asked questions about erectile dysfunction.

Hi. I'm Dr. Kohler, a urologist at Mayo Clinic. I'm here to answer some of the important questions you may have about erectile dysfunction.

Problems with erectile dysfunction are super common. If you look at the decade of life, that predicts what percent of men will have problems. So, for example, 50% of 50-year-olds, 60% of 60-year-olds, so on and so forth, will have problems with erections. But that does not necessarily mean that as you get older, you have to have problems of the penis. There are plenty of men in their 60s, 70s and 80s and 90s with great sex lives. In other words, if you take great care your penis, your penis will take great care of you.

So the things that you can do to take care of yourself to help with erections include exercising, eating well, including a diet high in fruits and vegetables, having a slimmer waistline, sleeping well, quitting smoking. A lot of these things I mentioned are as powerful as medications in helping with erections and improving your sex life.

The penis and overall health is so strongly connected, it's really important to remember that the penis is one of the most powerful predictors we have, especially in young men, for heart attacks. The blood vessels that feed the penis are relatively small. Blood vessels in the heart and the neck are a little bit bigger. So therefore, the penis can predict heart attacks or strokes years in advance when they may occur.

Yes and no. So when we talk about what truly is a problem with erectile dysfunction, the definition is a problem that lasts greater than three months and is a consistent inability to obtain or maintain an erection adequate for intercourse. So when young men get problems with erections, which is very, very common because it's normal to have bad nights here and there. And so, if it happens occasionally, you don't need to be as worried about that. But if you have consistent problems, you absolutely should and must get checked out by a doctor to figure out what's going on, not only because there are great treatments available, but because we may discover underlying medical problems.

When young men have problems with erections, most of the time it's a confidence issue. And so, there are different ways to deal with that. One way is to give medications to get the confidence back. Another way is to use specialists trained in behavioral techniques to get confidence back, so sexual counselors or therapists can really help with this problem.

Modern day, we have several new, exciting, experimental things, such as shockwave therapy of the penis or platelet-rich plasma or stem cell therapy. These are not ready for prime time, and so you should not, as a patient, have to spend your hard-earned money to see whether or not this works for you. It's better to be part of a clinical trial to see if that works or to go with more traditional therapies at this point.

If you want to be a great partner for your medical team to help solve problems with erections, the number one thing you can do is book an appointment. Just like anything else in life, you have to take the initiative, set up an appointment for your physician, say, "Doc, I have a problem with sex." Never hesitate to ask your medical team any questions or concerns you have. Being informed makes all the difference. Thanks for your time and we wish you well.

May 06, 2022