Can Impotence Be Cured?
Erectile dysfunction (ED) or impotence is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection for satisfactory sexual activity. According to the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, a large-scale observational survey conducted in the United States, ED affects more than half of all men.1 It has a strong correlation to age and the incidence increases from 5 percent at age 40 to 15 percent at age 70.1 There is also a known association between ED and hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and cigarette smoking. Also, psychological impotence can occur due to stress, guilt, depression, poor self-esteem, and performance anxiety. It is evident that various factors can cause erectile dysfunction, but can the condition be cured?
How is erectile dysfunction treated?
A man’s general health status plays an important role in the occurrence and cure of ED. For example, obesity is associated with a 50 percent increase in the incidence of erectile dysfunction.2 An increased risk of impotence is noted in heavy alcohol users.2 Cigarette smoking and unhealthy diets are also known risk factors.2 Maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation can help cure erectile dysfunction in some men. Moreover, men with ED have about a 40 to 60 percent higher risk of heart attacks and strokes.3 Therefore, getting treated for ED reduces the risk of cardiovascular events and death.
In addition to lifestyle modifications, there are numerous medical and surgical options for ED treatment and cure. PDE5 inhibitors, such as Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, and Stendra, are oral medications that augment the body’s natural erectile mechanisms. Vacuum constriction devices (penis pumps) are mechanical devices that help achieve an erection by creating suction and drawing blood into the penis. Other possible cures for impotence include a medication called alprostadil that can be delivered directly into the urethra via suppository or injected into the muscles of the penis. In men with low testosterone levels, hormone supplementation may be an effective cure. Surgical treatments for ED include implantation of inflatable or semi-rigid penile prostheses.
Men with ED need to discuss current medications with their physicians. Many medications, including some blood pressure pills and antidepressants, can cause or contribute to ED. Discontinuing or altering the dose of these drugs may be able to cure impotence. It is noteworthy that stress, relationship issues, guilt, lack of self-esteem, and pornography addiction can trigger this condition. Obtaining therapy for these underlying conditions can potentially cure erectile dysfunction.
How effective are the various cures for impotence?
Lifestyle modifications are effective in reversing erectile dysfunction in many men. Studies have found that participating in a weight loss program can cure the condition in one-third of men.2 Research also shows that quitting smoking leads to a 25 percent improvement in erectile function.2 Eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise are associated with a lower BMI (body mass index) and is recommended for men with ED because obesity is a known cause of the condition.
Among the oral medications for impotence, sildenafil (Viagra) has a success rate of 36 to 76 percent.2 The effectiveness of tadalafil (Cialis) and vardenafil (Levitra) is reportedly between 11 to 47 percent.2
Vacuum constriction devices have an impressive success rate of 95 percent with proper use2; however, many men find these devices cumbersome and unnatural. The efficacy of alprostadil injection therapy is about 50 percent, i.e., half the men can have intercourse with this treatment, but there is an increased risk of priapism (prolonged and painful erection).2 Patients who undergo penile prosthesis placement report satisfaction rates of about 90 percent.2
Can erectile dysfunction be cured?
Depending on the cause, erectile dysfunction is almost always treatable and often curable. The first step is to find out what is causing it. In some men, simply changing medications or making lifestyle modifications may cure impotence. In others, the absence of physical health problems may lead the physician to delve deeper into potential psychological causes of ED and prescribe appropriate therapy. As noted above, there are several effective medical treatments for erectile dysfunction that can successfully cure the condition. If conservative measures fail, more invasive therapies such as surgical penile prosthesis placement may be effective. A study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that nearly 30 percent of men with impotence have remission, i.e., are cured, after 5 years.4
Rarely, erectile dysfunction may be incurable. Some men have primary ED, i.e., they have never been able to have a full and sustained erection since puberty. This can occur due to various causes, including Peyronie’s disease, vascular and neurologic sources, or medication side effects.5 Also, men who have prolonged erections lasting for more than 4 hours (priapism) are at risk of permanent penile damage and untreatable ED.6 In most cases, however, impotence can be cured, i.e., the condition can be improved to the point that satisfactory intercourse is possible without any treatment.