Weak erections also known as impotence or erectile dysfunction, may be an early warning signal of underlying cardiac or kidney disease. Dr. Willie Jordaan, managing director of Mens Clinic International , the largest group of erectile dysfunction clinics in South Africa, says that around 65% of men with heart disease will have erectile dysfunction.
In fact, erectile dysfunction is often a symptomatic presentation of a large number of underlying medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol problems, neurological or hormonal disorders. It may also be a precursor to the development of a stroke or heart attack.
Often the presenting symptom in men with underlying coronary artery disease, is a difficulty in achieving or maintaining an erection sufficient for normal sexual intercourse, says Jordaan
The pathology of arterial disease is widespread in the body, affecting a large number of end organs, including the penis, and because the normal erection depends partly on a sufficient arterial inflow of blood, impotence often coexists with coronary artery disease. The arterial disease process is accelerated by smoking and by diseases such as diabetes, adds Jordaan
There is a strong correlation between high cholesterol levels and erectile dysfunction.
A symposium on erectile dysfunction recently held in Cape Town, quoted the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. This study quoted the prevalence of erectile dysfunction in the 40 to 70 year old age group at between 52%. It also demonstrated that around 93% of men who have had angioplasty for coronary artery disease, had moderate to severe erectile dysfunction. In addition, atherosclerotic artery disease accounted for 50% of erectile dysfunction cases over the age of 50 years.
Renal failure, too, is associated with a high prevalence of erectile dysfunction - up to 60% of renal failure patients suffer from severe erectile dysfunction , says Jordaan
All this evidence points at the importance of recognising erectile dysfunction as more than just a psychological entity. The diagnostic process must exclude coexistent disease processes in the body. The early identification of risk factors for impotence, like smoking, alcohol abuse, lack of physical exercise, poor diet, advancing age, the side effects of many medications and the other medical conditions mentioned earlier, will help to expose not only the cause of the erection difficulty, but also detect associated vital organ pathology.
There are two critical messages, Dr Jordaan continues: the first is that impotence, or weakening erections should send a clear message to the man that there is possibly an underlying disease process in the body which is manifesting as poor erectile performance. Heart attacks, stroke, or kidney failure for example are very real threats in a man with vascular disease sufficient to cause impotence. Sexual medicine practitioners at these clinics undertake investigations to establish the underlying pathology and institute treatment protocols to retard their progress. No man should ignore the message that his failing penis may be sending out to him.
The second message is a positive one: treatments for erectile dysfunction have advanced to such an extent that it is now possible to return up to 90% of men with erectile dysfunction to normal sexually active lives, even well into the eighth and ninth decades of life. For the first time in history, there are reliable, safe and effective medical methods to address this common and serious male health issue.
Mens Clinic International has clinics around South Africa, and offers a helpline on 0860 362867 or +27 11 523 5100.