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Impotence FAQs

What is impotence?

Impotence is a type of erectile dysfunction which affects up to one in ten men in the UK. Impotence is defined as the inability to achieve an erection to perform sexual activity. It is sometimes confused with other common sexual disorders such as premature ejaculation and delayed ejaculation. The former occurs when a man reaches orgasm too quickly, whereas delayed ejaculation, also known as retarded ejaculation, is when a man fails to reach a climax when erect.

What is the difference between erectile dysfunction and impotence?

The difference between erectile dysfunction and impotence has become largely academic, as both terms are now used interchangeably. In the past, impotence used to refer to the inability to achieve an erection. Erectile dysfunction was a more general term which described a wide range of erectile problems such as losing your erection during intercourse, or not being able to achieve an erection firm enough for penetration.

It is thought that companies marketing impotence treatments began to refer to them as erectile dysfunction treatments because it was felt that the word impotence had negative connotations. However, over time, the reverse began to happen and erectile dysfunction began to be referred to as impotence. It's now generally accepted that the two mean the same thing: the inability to achieve or maintain an erection adequate for achieve sexual intercourse.

Who is likely to suffer from impotence?

Because impotence is such a common sexual disorder, men of all ages experience it at some point in their lives, although it is more common in older men. Impotence in teenagers and young men is frequently caused by psychological factors such as anxiety. Common causes for middle aged men and older men include stress, guilt and bereavement.

Older men are more likely to suffer from impotence due to physical causes, such as heart disease and diabetes. But it is important to remember that not all older men are affected, as over 70% of all 70-year-olds are still sexually potent.

Are many cases due to psychological causes?

In many cases impotence is likely to be caused by psychological factors. If the sufferer is still waking up with an erection in the morning and can still get an erection through masturbation then the causes are likely to be psychological. Nerves, depression, exhaustion, guilt and relationship problems can all contribute to impotence.

What physical factors can cause impotence?

Common physical causes of impotence include:

  • Consumption of prescription medications causing impotence
  • Consumption of recreational medications such as cocaine
  • Deterioration of the arteries
  • Diabetes
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Obesity
  • Smoking

What should I do if I think I am impotent?

The worst thing a man can do is suffer in silence. Impotence should not be taboo and should be discussed openly with your partner and your doctor. A doctor can do an examination to find any physical causes that may be linked to impotence. Suitable treatment can then be prescribed.

What medication treatments are available for impotence?

There is a choice of three oral prescription medications for treating impotence. Viagra, Cialis and Levitra share similar properties although each works slightly differently. Viagra is proven to last for up to four hours. Cialis works in the same way as Viagra but has longer lasting effects, sometimes up to 36 hours. Levitra lasts for up to four hours like Viagra, but is more easily tolerated by the body and is usually prescribed for men with underlying health concerns.

What non-medication treatments are available?

Treatment depends on the cause of impotence and the suitability of the individual. Sometimes medication treatments are unnecessary and a form of counselling, such as relationship counselling, may be more appropriate.

What mechanical aids are there for impotence?

There are a number of devices, such as vacuum pumps, that some men use to try to achieve a stronger erection. These aids are not impotence treatments, but they can help to further sexually stimulate men with only minor impotence and make them feel more confident.

Can surgery treat impotence?

Because of the vastly improved medication treatments for impotence that are widely available in the UK, the option to treat impotence with surgery is not strongly advised. The risk of adverse side effects is greater, and the repercussions can be permanent.

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