Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a rarely spoken condition among men although it is fairly common. About 10 to 15 percent of men under 40 years and 76 percent of those between 50 and 70 years of age suffer from ED.
Prof. Ahmed Yousef, a consultant urologist at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi, answers some questions regarding the condition and why more men are opting for penile implants.
What is Erectile Dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is when a man is unable to have an erection or is unable to sustain the erection long enough to have sex.
This can result from a psychological problem (lack of arousal which has nothing to do with relationship difficulties), or a physical problem (reduced blood flow to the penis, or a nerve not functioning properly).
What medical conditions cause ED?
ED can be caused by one of several medical conditions. These include diabetes, hypertension, prostate cancer, kidney disease, obesity, venous leaks and neurological problems such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Use of some medications and injuries resulting from an accident can also cause ED.
What treatment options exist for ED?
ED that is a result of a medical condition is easily treated by dealing with the medical condition, for example, diabetes.
Depending on the cause and severity of the ED and any underlying health conditions, there are various treatment options. If the ED is not severe, simple steps like quitting smoking, exercising, losing weight, reducing alcohol intake and stress can help to deal with the condition. For more severe cases, drug therapy, or a penile implant are the other options.
How do I know I have severe ED?
To know the degree of erectile dysfunction, visit a specialist who will give you a questionnaire to evaluate your erection. The doctor can also ask you to do a blood test as well as a Penile Doppler ultrasound. Results obtained from the tests will determine the course of treatment depending on the severity.
How do the drugs work?
Most of the medications work to enhance a natural chemical in the body that relaxes the muscles in your penis. The goal of this medication is to increase response to sexual stimulation by increasing the blood flow in the penis allowing the person to get an erection.
It is important to consult the doctor before taking any of these medications.
What is a penile implant?
A penile implant (or penile prosthesis) is a discrete device that is placed into a man’s penis and is designed to help him get an erection.
The implant is usually used when there is a clear medical cause for severe ED and when the problem is unlikely to resolve, or improve naturally, or with other medical treatments. The prosthesis can last for 15 to 20 years.
How many types of implants are available?
Two different penile implants are available today. The three-piece inflatable penile implant is popular as it produces a more natural erection and the two-piece malleable penile implant which uses bendable rods.
Both types are custom fitted to the body to allow the man to have a satisfactory erection for sexual intercourse.
How do they work?
Both implants involve surgically placing devices. For the inflatable ones, a cylinder is placed in the penis, a fluid-filled container in the abdomen, and a pump in the scrotum. These allow the man to control when and how long he has an erection.
The malleable rods are implanted into the shaft of the penis to keep the penis firm, but bendable. Once implanted the sensitivity and ability to ejaculate should not be affected.
How long is the theatre procedure?
The procedure is done under general, or spinal anaesthesia. A small incision is made and the implants are inserted.
The patient can be discharged after one day with medication for pain and instructions not to have intercourse for three to six weeks.
During the review visit, the doctor counsels the patient on how to use the implant as complications can arise if used aggressively.
What are the advantages of a penile implant?
The treatment is discreet as the implant is not visible (the sexual partner cannot tell it exists). The recovery time is short averaging four to six weeks.
Once implanted, the man can have sex whenever he wants instead of having to plan. Patients treated with a penile implant appear to be significantly more satisfied than those treated with ED medication, or other treatment options. Looking at the long-term, it is also more cost-effective than medication.
Are there side effects?
As with any surgery, there are some minor risks associated with the penile implant procedure including pain, anaesthesia reactions, and infection.
These are dealt with by the doctor using medication. Mechanical problems can occur with the device if the patient fails to follow instructions provided on the usage.
If I get an implant, will the erection and sensation be the same as before I got ED?
After implantation of a penile prosthesis, you will have the same sensation, orgasm and ejaculation as you had before you got erectile dysfunction You will have a strong erection like when you were in your teen ages and the satisfaction rate will be around 95 to 97 percent for you and your partner.
How safe is it? Being a foreign object put in my body, are there some reactions?
The prosthesis is made of a special alloy which is completely safe for the patient and also accepted by the body tissue. However, some precautions have to be taken after the operation to prevent infection of the prosthesis but generally, it is completely save
After the penile implant, do I stop taking ED medicines?
After implantation, you will stop taking the medication for inducing erection and the penis will be ready any time without any prior preparation for sex. This means that you can have unplanned sex any time lasting the intercourse for as long as you like with your partner.
As much as penile implants have a lot of advantages in treating patients, take the following precautions:
· Avoid abnormal sex practices
· Control your diabetes to prevent infections
· Check with your cardiologist if you qualify for a penile implant.
Prof Yousef is a consultant urologist at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi