A leading generics drug manufacturer, Pharma Dynamics, is aiming to rebrand erectile dysfunction (ED) in South Africa.
Mariska Fouché, Public Affairs Manager for Pharma Dynamics, says ED or impotence remains an uncomfortable topic for many – doctors included.
“Physicians are often reluctant to bring up a topic that might cause offence, even when there are pressing medical reasons to discuss it – especially when it is of a sexual nature, which can compromise the care their patients receive. We have challenged doctors throughout the country and equipped them with a how-to guide on broaching the topic with all their male patients during Mojo Week.”
According to Fouché still only 15% of men with ED seek treatment, and although they might have a prescription in hand even fewer can bring themselves to hand it over to the pharmacist.
“Our campaign aims at de-stigmatising the condition, while encouraging discussion and teaching the public and healthcare practitioners to see it as part of an overall health problem. It is estimated that at least 77% – or three out of four – SA men between the ages of 35 and 70 are affected by ED mostly due to heart problems, strongly linked to their diet, lack of exercise and other bad habits," says Fouché.
The campaign will also be driven online via advertisements and an interactive website, called www.ed-ucate.co.za, which serves as an anonymous resource where men and women can find out more about ED. Users will be able to assess their risk of suffering from ED by way of a specially designed survey screening tool, and they will have access to a professional urologist who will be on hand to answer questions.
“A man in his 80s could have a fulfilling sex life with regular erections,” says Fouché. “There are numerous famous men who became fathers when they were relatively old, like rock star Mick Jagger at 57, artist Picasso at 68 and actor Charlie Chaplin at 73.
“In the majority of cases of chronic impotence or inability to get and maintain an erection, the reason is an underlying health problem, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or hypertension,” she says.
All of these are closely linked to numerous lifestyle choices such as lack of exercise, smoking, eating food that is high in fat, sugar and salt, and drinking too much alcohol.
ED can be manageable
“For an erection to occur, the penis must be supplied with sufficient blood. When patients cannot achieve erections regularly, it is often a sign that they have hardened arteries or arteriosclerosis. In turn, this could be a symptom of cardiovascular disease (CVD), which is caused by poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking and drinking excessively. The smaller penile arteries will clog up faster than the larger cardiac ones. Studies show that men with ED are more likely to experience a heart attack within the following two to five years.
“Diabetic men can expect to experience ED between 10 and 15 years earlier than other men their age who don’t suffer from diabetes. Diabetes can damage the blood vessels and nerves necessary for erections to occur, and is also a chronic illness that has its origins in a sedentary lifestyle and a diet rich in processed foods with low nutritional value.”
Cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension are all on the increase in the country as more and more South African men become obese. But many men are unaware that they are sufferers or even that their performance in the bedroom is an early indicator. International research shows that for every nine kilograms a man is overweight, he experiences a 3% decline in erectile function.
“Smoking and drinking also damage the delicate blood vessels. A man who smokes, drinks alcohol in excess, doesn’t exercise regularly, is overweight and eats an unhealthy diet has a heightened risk of developing diabetes, CVD and other chronic ailments. All of this will often go undetected until he seeks medical advice because his erections have been negatively affected. ED is thus often a symptom of a larger health issue.”
The good news, says Fouché, is that lifestyle diseases and ED can be successfully managed.
“The key is to be more active, stop smoking, drink very moderately, eat lean meat, limit fat, salt and sugar and seek medical help for chronic diseases. Your ED is nature’s way of telling you to look after your overall health,” says Fouché.
Mild erectile dysfunction is described as being able to maintain an erection 7 or 8 times out of 10 attempts at intercourse; moderate ED as 4 to 6 times; and severe as 0 to 3 times.
1 in 4 men under 40 have ED
Everything you need to know about erectile dysfunction/impotence