Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Erectile Dysfunction?

The human erection is an amazing feat of engineering. The progression from flaccid to firm requires close cooperation between the brain and the nerves, blood vessels, and muscles that control the penis. Unfortunately, the delicate process can break down for many reasons, making erections either difficult or impossible to achieve. Impotence (the inability to have intercourse because of erectile dysfunction) is more common among older men, but it can strike at a young age too. How much do you know about it? Take this short quiz to find out.

1. According to the National Institutes of Health, roughly how many American men have some degree of erectile dysfunction?

a. 500,000 (0.05 percent of the 101 million men over 18)

b. One million (1 percent)

c. 15 to 30 million (15 to 30 percent)

d. 50 million (50 percent)

2. Most cases of erectile dysfunction are "all in the head" -- that is, they're not caused by a physical problem.

True

False

3. Which of the following does NOT raise the risk of erectile dysfunction?

a. Heavy drinking

b. Smoking

c. High blood pressure

d. Frequent masturbation

4. Prescription medications are a leading cause of erectile dysfunction.

True

False

5. Viagra (sildenafil) is the most effective erection treatment available today.

True

False

6. Several herbal products (some marketed as "herbal Viagra") are effective for treating impotence.

True

False

Answers

1. According to the National Institutes of Health, roughly how many American men have some degree of erectile dysfunction?

The correct answer is: c. 15 to 30 million (15 to 30 percent)

By the estimates of the National Institutes of Health, somewhere between 15 and 30 million American men have erectile dysfunction. The condition grows more common with age. According to a recent report from Columbia University, about 5 percent of 40-year-olds suffer from the condition. For men over 65, studies find erectile dysfunction to be three to five times more common, affecting up to 25 percent of older men.

2. Most cases of erectile dysfunction are "all in the head" -- that is, they're not caused by a physical problem.

The correct answer is: False

While stress, depression, guilt, anxiety, and hostility can all hinder erections, most cases of erectile dysfunction have a physical explanation. According to the NIH, only 10 to 20 percent of all cases can be blamed on psychological factors. If you have trouble achieving an erection with your partner but still have erections when you wake up in the morning or while indulging in fantasies, there's probably a psychological root to your problem. A few sessions with a counselor or other mental health professional may help restore your sex life.

3. Which of the following does NOT raise the risk of erectile dysfunction?

The correct answer is: d. Frequent masturbation

Simply put, there's no harm in this habit. In contrast, smoking and heavy drinking can dramatically raise the risk of erectile dysfunction. In addition, many physical ailments can hinder erections, including high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, diabetes, kidney disease, prostatitis, and thyroid disorders. If you are having regular trouble with your erection, consult with your doctor.

4. Prescription medications are a leading cause of erectile dysfunction.

The correct answer is: True

According to a report in the American Family Physician, up to one-fourth of all cases of erectile dysfunction can be attributed to prescription drugs. Common culprits include antidepressants, blood pressure medications, cholesterol-lowering drugs, tranquilizers, and antihistamines. In many cases, your doctor can help you avoid this unfortunate side effect by changing medications or, if appropriate, prescribing lower doses.

5. Viagra (sildenafil) is the most effective treatment available today for all types of erection problems.

The correct answer is: False.

For all of the hype surrounding Viagra, it's not always the most effective treatment for erectile dysfunction. Its not advisable, for example, for men who have had a stroke or who have preexisting heart disease that interferes with intercourse. While it's an excellent choice for men with mild to moderate symptoms of erectile dysfunction and is usually the frontline treatment, more serious cases often call for more serious treatments. Vacuum pumps, penile implants, and injectable drugs often succeed where Viagra fails. Talk with your doctor about your options.

6. Several herbal products (some marketed as "herbal Viagra") are effective for treating impotence.

The correct answer is: False

While certain herbs, such as yohimbe bark (the active ingredient, yohimbine, is available by prescription) can increase blood flow to the penis, they haven't proven reliable at treating impotence and they may also be more dangerous than Viagra or other treatment. Serious reactions to yohimbe, including renal failure, seizures, and deaths, have been reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which warns that yohimbe should be avoided by anyone with low blood pressure (hypotension), diabetes, and liver, heart, or kidney disease. And the National Guideline Clearinghouse does not recommend Yohimbine or other herbal remedies for the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Most herbal formulas "proven" to treat impotence have exaggerated claims and have never been studied scientifically. Be sure to consult your doctor before trying herbal remedies for impotence.

-- Chris Woolston is a health and medical writer with a master's degree in biology.

References

National Institutes of Health. Impotence.

Jordan, G.H. Erectile function and dysfunction. Postgraduate Medicine.

Viera, A.J. Newer pharmacologic alternatives for erectile dysfunction. American Family Physician.

Mayo Clinic Health Letter. Second Opinion. February 2001.

Columbia University. Male sexual dysfunction. http://cpmcnet.columbia.edu/texts/guide/hmg10-0008.html

National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Erectile Dysfunction. December 2005. http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/impotence

National Guideline Clearinghouse. The management of erectile dysfuncion: an update. February 2006

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