The stigma can pre­vent men seek­ing help – and di­ag­no­sis of any un­der­ly­ing health con­di­tions

The Star Early Edition - - VERVE -

MEN liv­ing with erec­tile dys­func­tion, also com­monly known as ED, see the mal­func­tion as a sign of weak­ness and shame.

While men are of­ten dis­cour­aged by their fam­i­lies from seek­ing med­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal help for the con­di­tion, the stigma can make liv­ing with ED even more chal­leng­ing.

It is one of the most stig­ma­tised health con­di­tions de­spite the in­creas­ing knowl­edge and in­for­ma­tion for its pre­ven­tion made freely avail­able to the pub­lic.

Jonathan,* 56, who was di­ag­nosed with ED 10 years ago says know­ing he had the con­di­tion made him re­alise that is was a nor­mal ill­ness in­stead of it be­ing a taboo topic.

He was in his mid for­ties when he no­ticed he had prob­lems with his man­hood’s func­tion­al­ity and de­cided to con­sult a gen­eral prac­ti­tioner (GP) who later di­ag­nosed him with ED.

“It came as no shock to me be­cause I had no­ticed over the years that my sex drive was not the same, my erec­tions were get­ting weaker and they did not last long,” said Jonathan.

To dis­cover the rea­son be­hind it, the GP had to run tests which in­cluded an overnight de­vice that he had to put around his pe­nis to see if he had erec­tions in his sleep – which he didn’t.

In Jonathan’s case it was ED that re­vealed other un­der­ly­ing health con­di­tions.

“The GP told me that the cause of ED was linked to my fam­ily’s med­i­cal his­tory which in­cluded heart and blood pres­sure prob­lems.” He said ED symp­toms saved his life be­cause if it was not for its symp­toms, “I wouldn’t have known that my blood cir­cu­la­tion was a prob­lem and I was at high risk of hav­ing a stroke.

“I knew that my dad had the same heart con­di­tion. As em­bar­rass­ing as it was, I went to ask him if he had ED be­fore, and he said yes, but he did not treat it be­cause of the stigma.”

Af­ter his fa­ther con­fessed to him, he un­der­stood why he had never dis­closed or sought help for his ED.

ED ru­ined his con­fi­dence as a man.

“When your pe­nis is not func­tion­ing, you feel like your life is not func­tion­ing. Some­how the per­for­mance of my pe­nis af­fected my man­hood… it made me feel less of a man.”

Los­ing in­ter­est in sex also threat­ened his mar­riage of 33 years, “my wife thought she was not at­trac­tive enough for me to get an erec­tion. It made her feel in­se­cure and of­ten thought it was due to her body chang­ing be­cause of age.

“That just proves that if ED is not han­dled well, it can break any good, healthy mar­riage.”

His doc­tor pre­scribed Vi­a­gra as treat­ment – which he has to take 20 min­utes be­fore hav­ing sex, and that gave him enough drive to last for two hours.

“The 20 min­utes give me enough time to have the best fore­play and fun with my wife be­fore we have sex. So even that’s not a prob­lem for us.”

Even though med­i­ca­tion has ir­ri­tat­ing side ef­fects, such as blurry vi­sion, red­dish cheeks and snotty nose, Jonathan ad­mits that get­ting treat­ment was the best de­ci­sion for him and his wife.

How­ever, Jonathan is among the few man who can talk about ED, as many men are are too ashamed.

ED is re­ceiv­ing at­ten­tion this month as June is Men’s Health Month.

Some of the com­mon and main symp­toms of ED are re­duced in­ter­est in sex­ual in­ter­course and dif­fi­culty in get­ting and main­tain­ing an erec­tion.

Dr Wisani Craig Mamitele at the Urol­ogy Hospi­tal Pre­to­ria, says some men are too em­bar­rassed to con­front the prob­lem – an at­ti­tude which he says is counter-pro­duc­tive to their re­cov­ery.

Ac­cord­ing to him, ED is not un­com­mon and there are so­lu­tions. Men sim­ply need to ac­cept it as they would any other health is­sue.

Mamitele points out that the process of deal­ing with it af­ter ac­cep­tance may in­clude ed­u­cat­ing a man’s part­ner about the causes and so­lu­tion.

“This will help avoid pres­sure from a sex­ual part­ner, re­duce stress and give an op­por­tu­nity for sup­port.

“There is no need to be em­bar­rassed or ashamed of ED, men should un­der­stand that it is not an un­usual con­di­tion. Seek­ing med­i­cal help is cru­cial in deal­ing with the prob­lem.”

Psy­cho­log­i­cal ef­fects of ED may in­clude anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion and re­la­tion­ship prob­lems. Un­der­ly­ing health con­di­tions such as clogged blood ves­sels, heart dis­ease, di­a­betes, high blood pres­sure and obe­sity, body fat around waist and high choles­terol or Parkin­son’s dis­ease may re­sult in ED.

Al­though it may be preva­lent in older men, Mamitele says there is no set age for men to ex­pe­ri­ence ED. As men get older there is a nat­u­ral de­crease in testos­terone which may lower sex drive and in­crease ED.

In some pa­tients ED is a warn­ing sign for other ma­jor vas­cu­lar con­di­tions like heart at­tacks and strokes and early in­ves­ti­ga­tions and treat­ment may pre­vent th­ese con­di­tions.

Life­style changes can help re­duce ED ef­fects. Eat­ing healthy food, reg­u­lar ex­er­cise, quit­ting smok­ing and low­er­ing stress may all con­trib­ute pos­i­tively to one’s health and re­duce the sever­ity of ED.

MIS­UN­DER­STOOD: Erec­tile dys­func­tion re­mains stig­ma­tised de­spite in­for­ma­tion about it in the pub­lic do­main.

Vi­a­gra can help treat the con­di­tio n.

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