Andy Peiffer, M.D., PhD is the medical director of the Men's Health Center in Salt Lake City, UT. He may be reached at (801) 521-2102 or online at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Men's Health Center is here to help you positively impact your health and well being. Our medical team has years of experience with conditions that range from high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer prevention, impotence therapy as well as cholesterol lowering therapy, weigh control programs and hormone replacement. » MORE INFO
Erectile Dysfunction as a Marker for Life-Threatening Diseases
Does ED predict your risk of having clogged arteries?
The term “erectile dysfunction” needs little explanation. With the introduction of Viagra® in 1998, those words came out of the bedroom and made their way into public conversations, our magazines and the doctor’s office. To the credit of the little blue pill and its competitors like Levitra® and Cialis®, the social taboos surrounding this age-old problem are quickly being erased. More and more of the 30 million men who suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED) in the U.S. are seeking answers and treatment from their doctors. And another advantage of bringing ED complaints to the clinic is that men who rarely visit the doctor can be screened for life-threatening diseases.
Men of any age can have ED. In younger men the problem is usually temporary, and caused by stress, performance anxiety, lack of sleep or excessive alcohol consumption. But in older men, ED often accompanies serious health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Unfortunately ED is often blamed on the “normal” aging process in older men. But nothing could be further from the truth. Older men who are healthy and who do not have low testosterone do not suffer from ED. And now research is beginning to reveal another important fact. ED may be an early sign that a man is developing atherosclerosis, diabetes or heart disease.
All these illnesses prevent blood from flowing properly through our arteries and veins. Blockage of blood flow may be “silent” …..until it is too at late. Strokes, heart attacks, sudden death can be the result. But ED may be an early sign that a man is starting to clog or damage all of his arteries even before doctors diagnosis something serious like coronary artery disease. After all, blood flow through the penis is what causes erections. And if the smaller arteries of the penis are not working properly or if they’re clogged, then it is very likely that the larger arteries of the heart, brain and other organs are also starting to malfunction.
Several studies have now shown that older men with ED but no cardiac symptoms often have advanced coronary artery disease (blockage of the heart blood vessels). This new evidence suggests that men consulting the doctor for ED need to be screened for cardiovascular disease, heart problems and diabetes even if they don’t have any symptoms. Early detection of these serious diseases means earlier treatment, better outcomes and less complications. And importantly, if a man has ED and borderline high pressure or cholesterol, early treatment of these metabolic problems may help resolve his erectile problems. Of course many studies have been done on exactly how the drugs known as PDE 5 inhibitors (Viagra®, Levitra® and Cialis®) work to improve penile blood flow. It turns out that these drugs not only relax blood vessels and improve blood flow but they may actually protect the lining of the blood vessels from damage by free radicals and other insults caused by high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. It is possible that drugs like the PDE 5 inhibitors will one day be prescribed to help improve blood flow in the heart, lungs, brain and other organs affected by chronic illnesses.
So, treatment with these drugs may not just be for the male organ. In the meantime, men suffering from ED need to be screened for serious illnesses and treated early. Early prevention, early detection, early treatment is the key to better health….and better sex.
Andy Peiffer, MD PhD is the Medical Director of The Men’s Health Centers. He may be reached at 801.521.2102