No One Really Knows How Many Men Have Erectile Dysfunction

By Ed Cara on at

Just how many men are struggling with erectile dysfunction? Well, according to a recent review of the medical literature, it depends on how and where you ask the question. Global rates of ED, it found, range from as low as 3 per cent of men to as high as 76 per cent.

The study, published in BJU International this month, reviewed research from across the world looking at the prevalence of ED among men in the general population. These studies also tried to track the link between ED and other medical conditions often associated with it, such as an enlarged prostate gland.

The wide range of ED estimates, the authors said, reflects how differently these studies were conducted, as well as the populations studied. The older someone was, for instance, the more likely they had ED. But there were also different survey methods used to figure out if someone had ED. According to the authors, when researchers used questionnaires widely accepted by the medical community to diagnose ED, reported rates were generally higher, even among younger men, compared to when researchers relied on other, less validated questionnaires.

Erectile dysfunction can happen for lots of reasons, including stress or other psychological factors, but it’s often tied to underlying physical problems with circulation or the urinary tract. Across the studies, the authors found a consistent link between being diagnosed with ED and having a higher risk of conditions such as cardiovascular disease and dementia. Men with ED were also more likely to die early compared to men without ED.

Because of these risks, it’s important to accurately get a grasp on whether someone has ED or not, especially among men whose existing medical conditions might make them more vulnerable to it. One benefit, for instance, is that you can use some of the same drugs used to treat both an enlarged prostate gland and ED. Men with ED may need psychological support, too, since it can be a stressful and demoralising condition.

Given our cultural hang-ups around sex, the authors noted, it’s important to use the most accurate screening methods available to diagnose ED in men who might be reluctant to talk about sexual problems but who do have these other associated conditions.

“Due to the sensitive nature of the topic, physicians should consider screening for erectile dysfunction in at-risk patients, as information may not be volunteered,” they wrote.

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