Erectile dysfunction (ED), also referred to as impotence, is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection. ED is extremely prevalent, and may affect over half of men. Although the prevalence of erectile dysfunction increases with age, it is not a natural part of aging. About 4 percent of men in their 50s and nearly 17 percent of men in their 60s experience a total inability to achieve an erection. The incidence jumps to 47 percent for men older than 75.
The underlying causes of erectile dysfunction are variable, and while ED itself can be benign, associated with other conditions or may indicate a serious underlying problem.
|Causes||Alcohol, Smoking, Lack of Movement, Environmental Toxins, Stress, Prescription Medications|
|See Also||Men's Health, Diabetes, Hypertension, Atherosclerosis, Thyroid Disorders, Depression|
|Books||Books on Men's Health|
|Articles||Articles on Men's Health|
- 1 Naturopathic Assessment
- 2 Characteristics
- 3 Naturopathic Treatment
- 4 References
|Article||Nutrients and Botanicals for Erectile Dysfunction: Examining the Evidence , Alt Med; 2004;Vol9(1)|
In order to stimulate the innate ability of the body to heal the causes of disease must be identified and addressed. Although ED is often associated with an underlying disease, there are other factors such as injury or adverse reactions to prescription medications that need to be considered. Any disorder or situation that causes injury to the nerves or impairs blood flow in the penis has the potential to cause ED. A detailed assessment is required to determine which factors are contributing to ED in order to properly treat the condition.
- Body Weight
- Increased physical activity is associated with better sexual function especially in younger men.
- Injury to the penis, spinal cord, prostate, bladder, and pelvis can lead to ED by harming nerves, smooth muscles, arteries, and the fibrous tissues of the corpora cavernosa.
- Emotional factors
- Loss of Partner
- Widower syndrome, or the loss of a partner, may increase the risk of ED. 
- Environmental Chemicals and Toxins
- There is growing concern, but little evidence, describing the link between environmental chemicals and toxins and erectile dysfunction.
- There is growing concern that cellphones worn around the waist may contribute to erectile dysfunction.
- Prescription Medications
- Many widely used medications can lead to erectile dysfunction including: diuretics, beta-blockers, tricyclic antidepressants, monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors, SSRIs, benzodiazepines, antipsychotics, antiandrogens, digoxin, antihistamines, appetite suppressants, hypoglycemics, phenytoin, phenobarbital, and ketoconazole.
- It is estimated that up to one quarter of ED cases may be attributed to pharmaceutical use. 
- Medical Treatments
- Surgical interventions, including prostatectomy or bladder surgeries, can increase the risk of ED. 
- History: A person's medical and sexual histories including an inquiry about sexual desire, erection, ejaculation, or orgasm is the primary means of diagnosing erectile dysfunction.
- Physical Examination: The physical examination will provide an indication of associated local or systemic conditions. For example, if the penis is not sensitive to physical touch, a problem in the nervous system may be the cause. Abnormal secondary sex characteristics, such as unusual hair pattern or breast enlargement, can point to hormonal problems, which would mean the endocrine system is involved. The doctor might discover a circulatory problem by observing decreased pulses in the wrist or ankles. And unusual characteristics of the penis itself could suggest the source of the problem-for example, a penis that bends or curves when erect could be the result of Peyronie’s disease.
- Lab Tests including CBC, fasting blood glucose, lipid profile, liver enzymes, creatinine and free and total testosterone and a urinalysis may be indicated based on presentation. It is common for additional lab tests to be done to assess for other associated conditions.
- Specific Diagnostic Testing
- Radiology, nocturnal penile rigidity testing, vascular and neurologic functional testing, and ultrasound are not routinely used but may be indicated in specific cases under the guidance of a specialized medical professional.
- Other Tests
- If sleep-nocturnal erections occur it may indicate a psychological versus physical cause as healthy men have involuntary erections during sleep. The validity of this test is still questionable.
Related Symptoms and Conditions
Conditions that results in damage to nerves, arteries, smooth muscles, and fibrous tissues are commonly associated with ED. These conditions include:
- Cerebrovascular disease
- Congestive Heart Failure
- Spinal Cord Injury
- Herniated Disc
- Parkinson's Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Peyronie Disease
- Nerve damage
- Thyroid Disorders
- Hormonal abnormalities, such as low levels of testosterone, are a less frequent cause of ED.
Because an erection requires a precise sequence of events, ED can occur when any of the events is disrupted. The sequence includes nerve impulses in the brain, spinal column, and area around the penis, and response in muscles, fibrous tissues, veins, and arteries in and near the corpora cavernosa.
- Diagnostic criteria for erectile dysfunction according to the DSM-IV-TR are as follows:
- International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF)
- The IIEF is a questionnaire that may be used to both diagnose ED and track treatment effectiveness. A modified version known as the Sexual Health Inventory for Men (SHIM) is often commonly used to assess and track ED. 
|Article||Treating Erectile Dysfunction: A Multifactorial Approach, NDNR , 2011 November|
The goal of naturopathic treatment is to support and work in tandem with the healing power of the body and to address the causal factors of disease with individual treatment strategies. The treatment strategy for erectile dysfunction involves addressing the lifestyle and other factors that are contributing. If there are underlying conditions such diabetes or atherosclerosis improvement typically seen as those conditions are addressed.
It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor before engaging in any treatment plan.
Home Care strategies include:
- Eliminate smoking. Studies have demonstrated that smoking cessation can in some cases lead to a full recovery of functional erection status.
- Work with your doctor to modify or discontinue any prescription medication that is contributing to the problem.
- Avoid carrying cellphones or other electronic devices on or around the waist or pelvis.
- Address psychological factors
Lifestyle recommendations include:
- Lifestyle changes alone are associated with improvement in sexual function in about one third of men.
- Dietary recommendations:
The prescribing of naturopathic therapies requires the guidance of a naturopathic doctor as it depends on a number of factors including the causal factors, a person's age, prescription medications, other conditions and symptoms and overall health. It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor prior to taking any natural therapies.
Naturopathic Therapies for erectile dysfunction include:
|Article||Pistachio Nuts and Erectile Dysfunction, NMJ, 2012 February|
- Clinical Nutritional Supplementation includes
- Herbs such as Yohimbe (Pausinystalia yohimbe), Ginseng (Panax ginseng), Maca (Lepidium meyenii), Gingko (Gingko biloba), Tribulus (Tribulus terrestris) , Muira puama (Prychopetalum olacoides), Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus), Damiana (Turnera diffusa), Pygeum (Pygeum africanum), Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens)
- From a TCM perspective erectile dysfunction is associated with the following patterns: deficiency of KI Yang, deficiency of KI Yin, fear, worry and anxiety, damp heat in the lower burner.
- acupuncture is effective in increasing the flow of Qi to the lower pelvic area.
- Physical therapies including biofeedback, electrical stimulation, and pelvic floor exercises can effectively treat some patients with erectile dysfunction associated with venous occlusion.
Reviewed by Iva Lloyd, BScH, RPE, ND 
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