Erectile dysfunction

Updated 19 June 2014

When erections go wrong

There is much more to an erection than just sexual function, and when something goes wrong, it could be a sign of something much more serious.

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There is much more to an erection than just sexual function, and when something goes wrong, it could be a sign of something much more serious.

In honour of Men’ Health Month and to kick off the “It takes balls” campaign, the President of the International Society of Men’s Health and Professor of Urology, Cornell University, New York, Professor Ridwan Shabsigh is visiting South Africa to initiate the South African arm of the International Society of Men’s Health.

We spoke to Professor Shabsigh about what it means when erections go wrong.

Erections play a vital role in the overall health of men. Sexual health is the portal to men’s health,” he said.

Shabsigh also vehemently advocates for annual check-ups for men even when they’re not sick. He says that an annual check-up is important for prevention of illness, early detection of illness, attention to individual risk and for overall wellness.

What erection problems mean

So what does it mean when a man starts experiencing erection difficulties? According to Shabsigh, it is a very good indicator that something is not right within the body.

“Erectile function (ED) is directly related to the integrity of the other systems in the body. So if any of these systems becomes ill one of the symptoms could be erectile dysfunction,” he said.

Shabsigh added that erection problems are often a signal for other more ‘silent’ problems going on in the body such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease.

“ED has been shown to be an early warning symptom of cardiovascular disease and diabetes in otherwise asymptomatic men and can be predictive of future heart attacks or diabetes.”

So in some ways ED presents what Shabsigh calls “golden information” about what is going on inside the body of men who appear to have no physical symptoms that anything is wrong with them. He said that the moment of opportunity is when ED is diagnosed and can relate to many cases where a man’s life was virtually saved because he was diagnosed with ED with a more serious underlying condition.

Coping with ED

Erectile problems are not something men like to talk about, and Shabsigh noted that a lot of men with ED are in denial about it and don’t communicate their concerns. But, he said, ED is quite common and men should remember the following:

  • Erectile dysfunction is very common
  • The sexual organs are just like the other organs in the body and can malfunction just as easily
  • Sexual function is related to overall health
  • Healthy physicians are committed to privacy and confidentiality
  • There are excellent treatments available.

Overall Shabsigh advises that if you’re experiencing any form of erectile problems you should seek medical attention immediately as it could be a sign of something more serious going on inside your body.


Read more:

How an erection happens

Thousands of erection cases seen in ERs


Image: Erectile dysfunction from Shutterstock

Reference: Professor Ridwan Shabsigh, President of the International Society of Men’s Health and Professor of Urology, Cornell University, New York.

(Amy Froneman, Health24, June 2012)



 

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Ask the Expert

Erectile Dysfunction Expert

Dr Kenny du Toit is a urologist practicing in Rondebosch, Cape Town. He is also consultant at Tygerberg hospital, where he is a senior lecturer at Stellenbosch University. He is a member of the South African Urological Association, Colleges of Medicine South Africa and Société Internationale d’Urologie. Board registered with both the HPCSA (Health professions council of South Africa) and GMC (General medical council UK). He has a keen interest in oncology, kidney stones and erectile dysfunction.http://www.dutoiturology.co.za

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