Sexual dysfunction is any condition that prevents you or your partner from getting sexual satisfaction. Low sex drive or low libido and erectile dysfunction are common types of sexual dysfunction in men. 

Low sex drive is a reduced sexual drive that affects your relationship. Erectile dysfunction is a condition where a man cannot get or maintain an erection firm enough for sex. While both these conditions co-exist, it is not always the case. ED can exist with or without a reduced libido and vice versa.

These disorders may affect men of all ages but are prevalent with increasing age. Also, various physical and mental health conditions such as low testosterone levels, diabetes, and depression may increase the risk of low sex drive and ED.

But the good news is that various treatment options are available to reverse your sexual health. If you have problems with erection or sexual drive, it is best to talk to your doctor. They will help in finding out the underlying cause and manage it accordingly.

Lastly, communication with your partner will help you maintain the intimacy and closeness in your relationship.

Overview

Erectile Dysfunction

Before moving ahead, let us understand the process of erection.

Two chambers surround the shaft of the penis, which are responsible for erections. The urethra, a tube that carries urine and semen, runs through the center of the penis. The surrounding tissues of the chambers include smooth muscle fiber, small blood vessels, and empty spaces. 

A healthy erection involves signals from the nerve endings in the penis or brain to dilate blood vessels and relax the smooth muscles of the chambers. This causes the empty spaces to fill with blood.

The pressure of blood flow increases pressure on your veins, which drains blood out of the penis. The pressure thus traps the blood inside the penis. With more flow of blood, the penis stiffens and expands, resulting in engorgement and an erection. When arousal ends, smooth muscles contract, relieving pressure off the veins, and the penis returns to the original flaccid state.

Testosterone regulates the endothelial (lining of blood vessels) working of penile blood vessels and acts on the function, structure, and nerve supply of smooth muscles. Testosterone deficiency may thus make it difficult to get or maintain an erection.

So, blood flow to the penis and other components such as hormonal and nervous systems play a vital role in getting an erection. Problems in any of the components may result in ED.

Low Sex Drive

Various factors, similar to that of ED, may reduce your sex drive. 

Both low sex drive and ED are too prevalent, but only one-third of the men suffering from them consult a physician. 

Discomfort and embarrassment are some common reasons for not talking to a doctor. But it is important to understand that there are various treatment options available to help you enjoy a healthy sexual life.

Causes

From health conditions to having too much to drink, a number of physiological, lifestyle, and emotional factors may cause low sex drive and ED.

Here are some common issues:

Depression

Sexual health and depression share a complex link. Depression can change your body’s hormones and biochemistry, resulting in loss of libido. Besides, it is less likely to be in the mood when you are depressed. Moreover, some medicines, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can lower your libido and make it difficult for you to get or maintain an erection.

Stress

Your body reacts to stress by releasing the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Long-term stress can alter your body’s hormone levels, which can cause lower libido. These hormones also narrow your blood vessels, restricting blood flow to the penis. This can result in ED. Stress can also lower your sexual desire by taking your mind off sex.

Lack of Sleep

A good night’s sleep may not be possible every day, but it is essential to keep your body healthy, mind sharp, and libido healthy. When you are tired, you would like to rather catch up on sleep.

Lack of sleep can increase your cortisol levels, which lowers your libido. In a study it was seen that men with restless leg syndrome (a neurological condition) are at a higher risk of ED due to low dopamine levels.

Drug or Alcohol Abuse

Certain drugs can affect your erections and libido. For instance, marijuana suppresses your pituitary gland’s functioning, which is responsible for regulating testosterone levels.

While a little alcohol can improve your mood for sex, excess consumption may make it challenging to get or maintain an erection. Acceptable alcohol consumption for men is no more than two alcoholic drinks a day.

Low Self-Esteem

If your self-confidence is low or you have a poor body image, it is difficult to feel sexy. People who feel unattractive are less likely to engage in sexual activity. They may also have fear or rejection.

Medications

Some medicines used to manage depression, hypertension, and other conditions may have sexual side-effects. Some lower your libido, while others may make it difficult for you to get or maintain an erection. 

Some medicines that may cause ED and low sex drive are:

  • Medicines to manage hypertension, such as beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors
  • Corticosteroids
  • Hormones used to treat prostate cancer
  • Radiation or chemotherapy used to treat cancer
  • Cimetidine
  • Antifungals such as ketoconazole
  • Opioid pain killers such as oxycodone and morphine
  • Anabolic steroids
  • Certain antidepressants

Hormone Imbalance

Many studies have shown that testosterone levels play an important role in maintaining a healthy libido. So, low testosterone levels may result in low libido. Some common causes of low testosterone levels include inflammation, injury, or tumors of the testicles.

Low testosterone levels also play a crucial role in getting an erection, and its deficiency may thus result in ED.

Normal testosterone levels may vary. However, according to the American Urological Association levels below 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) are considered low.

Health Conditions

When you are not in the best of your health, such as long-standing pain, sex might not be your priority. Moreover, conditions such as cancer may also reduce your sperm count.

Some health problems that may alter your libido are:

Relationship Problems

If you are fighting with your partner or feel distant, you are less likely to feel intimate. Anger, communication problems, resentment, and other negative emotions can affect your sexual life.

Lack of Time

Have you been too busy for sex? Hectic lifestyles may make it difficult to set aside time for sex. While you do not need to set time for sex, dedicate some time to your partner and intimacy.

Symptoms

ED

  • Difficulty in getting an erection
  • Difficulty in maintaining the erection
  • Loss of sexual desire

Low Sex Drive

  • Low libido that causes distress in your relation

Effects

Low sex drive can be unsettling for many men. It can result in a vicious cycle of emotional and physical side effects, including erectile dysfunction.

Erectile dysfunction may cause men to feel anxious around sex. This can cause conflicts and tension between the couple, leading to fewer sexual encounters and further relationship problems.

Besides, failure to perform due to ED may also cause low self-esteem, depression, and poor body image.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will start by asking about the history of your symptoms. They may also run a physical check and advise blood tests to find the underlying cause of your problem.

Here are some ways of diagnosing your problems:

  • Blood tests
  • Sensory testing
  • Vascular assessment
  • Nocturnal penile tumescence and rigidity testing

Treatment

The treatment of low libido and erectile dysfunction depends on the underlying cause. For instance, sexual issues due to health conditions need treating the disorder. Psychological causes may need relationship counseling or a therapist.

Available treatment options include:

  • Medicines such as sildenafil, tadalafil, and vardenafil can improve sexual function by improving blood flow to the penis.
  • Treating the underlying health conditions that contribute to sexual dysfunction. 
  • Psychological therapy to address your feelings of fear, anxiety, or guilt that may impact sexual health.
  • If your testosterone levels are low, you may benefit from hormone supplementation.
  • Aids such as penile implants and vacuum devices can help men with erectile dysfunction.
  • Education about sexual behaviors and sex may help you overcome your anxieties about sexual performance. Open communication with your partner about your desires and needs can also help you overcome barriers to a healthy sexual life.

You can also take the following steps to boost your sexual health:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Lead a healthy lifestyle
  • Be physically active
  • Eat a healthier lifestyle
  • Practice stress management
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