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Most people know what erectile dysfunction is and how to treat it. Still, a better understanding of the factors contributing to its development is required to make the therapy more effective. Recent studies reveal strong links between sexual disorders and various health conditions that appear absolutely unrelated at first sight.

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New ED Risk Factors Revealed

Erectile dysfunction is a very widespread disorder that affects the quality of both male patients’ and their partners’ lives significantly. It has been the focus of many in-depth studies lately and researchers know for sure what biological processes cause it and claim that up to 98% of ED cases are treatable. The recently published papers reviewed in today’s post, shift the readers’ attention to the risk factors of erectile dysfunction and its prevention.

Common risk factors for erectile dysfunction include metabolic syndrome, obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, tobacco use, hypogonadism, depression and age over 40. There’s more than just that, though. Recent studies, such as the 2019 paper by Dr. Schmidt et al, show there’s a strong link between erectile dysfunction and inflammatory bowel disease, a seemingly unrelated disorder. Out of 69 men with IBD participating in the study 94% had erectile dysfunction and 39% reported global sexual dysfunction that didn’t improve over the course of treatment. Dr. Christensen of University of Chicago believes the reasons for ED in IBD patients are decreased body image and confidence, anxiety and persistent fatigue. An earlier study by a group of Taiwanese authors contradicts this point of view by showing that erectile dysfunction in men with IBD is due to not only psychogenic but also organic health problems, suggesting a deeper correlation between the two conditions.

Another health disorder that appears to be strongly linked to erectile dysfunction is rheumatoid arthritis. The 2019 article by LJ Restoux et al reviews 55 studies focused on sexual dysfunctions in patients with this condition. The men participating in all of these studies tended to have a lower than average index of erectile function. The authors of the article state it’s mostly due to pain and mobility restrictions during sexual intercourse. People with arthritis, similarly to IBD patients, also report poor body image perception, low self-esteem and constant fatigue, all of which affect their sexual performance. Other sources suggest that arthritis-related ED can result from inflammation in penile blood vessels or be a side effect of methotrexate, an arthritis medicine. Other rheumatic diseases, such as systemic sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus and ankylosing spondylitis, are also associated with a higher prevalence of erectile dysfunction in male patients.

Visible skin diseases are a frequent cause of social discomfort, anxiety and lowered self-esteem, all of which lead to sexual problems as well. For example, this study by Dr. Molina-Leyva et al shows that between 34.2% and 81.1% of male patients with psoriasis have erectile dysfunction. Unlike the two diseases mentioned above, psoriasis is easily managed by means of medication therapy and an improvement in the patient’s skin condition usually brings about better sexual performance.

Erectile dysfunction can also result from environmental problems – for example, poor air quality is a risk factor as well. A group of scientists from Guangzhou Medical University managed to prove this in a rat model study where male animals exposed to gasoline vehicle exhaust on a daily basis displayed reduced erectile function. The results of the research suggest that it’s not only occupational exposure to car exhaust that is dangerous – all people living in large cities are at risk.

The majority of impotence cases today are treated with medications that only address ED itself and not the underlying problems. A better understanding of risk factors associated with erectile dysfunction can teach us to manage it more efficiently and possibly even prevent it.

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