What no guy wants to talk about

Let’s call it the elephant in the bedroom. Something isn’t working right and you need to fix it.

If you’ve experienced erectile dysfunction (ED), you probably asked yourself two critical questions: “Is ED permanent?” and “Can this problem be fixed?”

It’s a difficult topic to discuss, but ED isn’t uncommon. In fact, it’s the most common sexual problem for men. It affects an estimated 30 million American men, according to the Urology Care Foundation. Making lifestyle changes can help improve your ED, but there are some factors you’ll have to talk to your doctor about.

Learn the causes of ED, also known as impotence, and how you can stop it.

For some people, sex isn’t as enjoyable as it could be. Depression, stress, fatigue, and sleep disorders can contribute to ED by disrupting feelings of sexual excitement in the brain, according to Mayo Clinic. While sex can be a stress reliever, ED can make sex a stressful chore.

Relationship problems can also contribute to ED. Arguments and bad communication can make the bedroom an uncomfortable place. This is why it’s important for couples to communicate openly and honestly with each other.

Now’s the time to finally quit smoking or cut down on your drinking if you’re looking for a treatment for ED. Tobacco use, heavy alcohol consumption, and other substance abuse all tend to constrict blood vessels, reports the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. This can lead to or worsen ED.

Obesity is a common factor related to ED. Diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease are also tied to obesity and ED. These conditions pose significant health risks and can affect sexual performance.

Cardiovascular exercises such as swimming, running, and bicycling help shed pounds and increase oxygen and blood flow throughout the body, including your penis. Added bonus: A slimmer, tighter physique might make you feel more confident in the bedroom.

ED can be caused by several other physical problems besides obesity and obesity-related diseases, including:

Taking certain prescription medications can also lead to ED.

Peyronie’s disease involves abnormal curvature of the penis during an erection. This can cause ED as fibrous scar tissue develops under the skin of the penis. Other symptoms of Peyronie’s include pain during an erection and intercourse.

Surgeries or injuries in the pelvic or lower spinal region can also cause ED. You may need medical treatment depending on the physical cause of your ED.

Both medical and surgical treatments for prostate cancer or enlarged prostate can also cause ED.

There are several ways to treat ED besides quitting bad habits and starting good ones. The most common treatment consists of oral medications. Three common medications are sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), and vardenafil (Levitra).

However, if you’re taking certain other medications or have specific cardiovascular diseases, these medications may not be appropriate for you. Other treatments include:

  • urethral suppository medications
  • testosterone supplement therapy
  • penile pumps, implants, or surgery

The first — and biggest — hurdle to correcting your ED is getting the courage to talk about it, either with your partner or your doctor. The quicker you do that, the sooner you’ll get to finding the possible cause of impotence and getting the right treatment.

Learn more about ED, and get the solutions you need to get back to the active sex life you want.