We usually think of erectile dysfunction (ED) as being a condition exclusive to older men. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Yes, it’s true that ED affects men more severely as they age. According to the UW School of Medicine, 5% of men over age 40 suffer from complete erectile dysfunction, and that number increases to 15% by age 70. Mild or moderate ED is even more common as men age, affecting 50% of men at age 50 and 60% of men at age 60.
However, we never hear about ED affecting younger men. There could be a few reasons why. One is that it’s statistically less likely, but another is that there’s a stigma surrounding ED and youth.
In Western countries, getting and keeping an erection is often viewed as a sign of strength and masculinity. We’re told that young men, who are supposed to be at their physical peak, shouldn’t be having issues with their sexual health. Their problems are therefore seen as signs of weakness, and of being uniquely impotent among their peers.
The numbers paint a different picture, though. Rather than being unique or abnormal, a 2013 study showed that one in four men under 40 suffers from ED (Capogrosso et al.).
Young men suffer from health problems just as older men do, and we should treat ED no differently. And as a health problem, we need to understand the causes behind it.
A sexually inexperienced young man might worry about how he’ll perform in bed. He might also have similar anxieties about sex in general: he might worry about his penis size, or about the vulnerability of being seen naked. So, when he finds himself in bed with someone, the anxiety and overthinking can prevent him from getting aroused.
Performance anxiety is common in men of all ages, and gradually goes away after a little more experience with a trusted sexual partner. If these anxieties persist, you may want to seek out psychological help such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Your health can be impacted in huge ways by the things you do in your day-to-day. Diet, exercise, sleep, and drug/alcohol use can all affect not just general health, but sexual health too. And, as it turns out, young men don’t keep super healthy habits.
Roughly 45% of men aged 21 to 25 drink above the recommended limit (NSDUH), 16.5% of men aged 25-34 smoke cigarettes (CDC), and sedentary behavior has increased in all age groups in the U.S. since 2001 (Yang et al., 2019). Making lifestyle changes and staying generally healthy is a surefire way to take care of your sexual health too.
Even a totally healthy young man can suffer from ED if he’s on medication. Treatments for unrelated, non-sexual health issues can have unintended effects on someone’s sex drive or ability to get an erection.
Antidepressants or antipsychotics, for example, are notorious for killing even the most active libidos. Allergy meds target histamine, a compound that goes overboard during allergic reactions but is also necessary in moderation for healthy erections. Opioid painkillers, which can be taken for any number of reasons, have long been known to reduce testosterone and have been linked directly to ED (Deyo et al., 2013).
Depression is a well-known cause of ED in men of all ages, but this cause might be especially relevant to young men. In recent years, depression and other psychological disorders have skyrocketed in young people; 2017 data by the NIH reports that 13.1% of people aged 18 to 25 suffer from major depressive disorder, compared to 7.7% aged 26-49 and 4.7% aged 50+.
Just like with ED, a similar stigma surrounds mental health and choosing to seek treatment—but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re a young man suffering from either or both of these conditions, consider seeking professional psychological help. Their benefits cannot be overstated.
MS is a disease that degrades myelin, the fatty sheath surrounding your brain cells. Myelin is required for your brain to send signals to the rest of your body, including those required for sexual arousal and erection.
While neurological diseases like MS are usually associated with older people, MS in particular is most common among people between ages 20 and 40—precisely the age group in which ED is considered premature.
Here are some of the most common ED treatments available in Singapore:
Known as phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors (PDE5 inhibitors), these medications help to restrict the enzyme PDE5 which degrades cGMP, a molecule that relaxes the muscle tissues in the body. By relaxing the muscles present in the blood vessel walls, this ultimately leads to an improved blood flow to your penis.
Contrary to popular belief, ED medication won't magically increase your sex drive or cause random erections after you take it. After you take the medication, you will still need to sexually aroused to get hard. Thankfully for many healthy men, ED medications will make getting an erection much easier.
It is possible that these ED medication can cause mild side effects like:
• Chest Pains
• Nasal Congestion
Unfortunately, you will not be able to purchase any oral ED medication over-the-counter in Singapore. You will need to see a doctor for a prescription.
If prescription ED medications do not work or are unsuitable for you, there are alprostadil injections that can be administered directly into the penis. These injections work by expanding your blood vessels, which increases the blood flow to your penis.
These penile injections can quickly produce an erection, which can then last up to an hour.
Penile injections can potentially cause side effects like priapism (prolonged erection), mild bleeding, and in rare cases, the formation of fibrous tissues at and around the injection site.
If other ED treatments are not effective, penile implants might be recommended by your doctor. This ED treatment involves surgically inserting a small tube on both sides of your penis. These tubes are pumped with air to help erect your penis.
Alprostadil urethral suppository involves inserting a small alprostadil suppository into the tip of your penis. The medication gets absorbed by the urethral wall, which produces an erection that can last up to an hour.
Potential side effects can include pain, burning sensation in the penis, and minor bleeding.
Vacuum restriction devices (also known as a penis pump) can be prescribed to treat ED. A hollow tube is placed over the penis and then connected to a pump (either operated by hand or battery).
Due to the pressure created by the vacuum, blood will be drawn towards the penis. Once a tension rubber ring is placed at the base of the penis, the pump can produce an erection that can last up to 30 minutes
The pumping will draw blood towards the penis due to the pressure created by the vacuum. When a tension rubber ring is placed around the base of the penis, the penis pump can produce an erection that lasts up to 30 minutes.
While ED medications work to address the physiological causes of ED, they will not be able to treat underlying psychological causes of ED like depression, anxiety or stress.
You can potentially treat psychological causes of ED with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). You can also try using some relaxation methods like breathing exercises, meditation and guided imagery to help relieve some symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression.
Articles featured on Noah are for informational purposes only and should not be constituted as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. If you're looking for a healthcare provider, click here.
This post is sponsored by Menarini