In a recent ad from from a company out of New Deli India which was touting a new 100% natural pill to combat Erectile Dysfunction (ED), the copy noted that, “Men hate this problem and it can put them under a lot of stress.” True! It claimed that the pill had no side-effects. If I’ve got ED and I take a pill, I want a side effect!

Seriously, the good news about erectile dysfunction is that it’s the male equivalent of the DEW line. Yes, the Distant Early Warning of an impending attack – except in this case the attack is one of the heart. According to the Journal of The American Heart Association, (2011), “Erectile dysfunction, is frequently a sign of atherosclerosis, a clogging or narrowing of the blood vessels that causes heart attacks. Erectile dysfunction usually comes 3 to 5 years before a heart attack.” Hence the reason to go see a doctor rather than to ask your buddy for a couple of his little blue pills. Lest you’re going for the – ‘He died with a smile on his face…’ epitaph.ED

I mentioned ED to a friend of mine and his response was, “And ED is what exactly? If I can masturbate on cue, I’m OK? I didn’t get a chance to respond before he replied that his ED was, “‘Only’ when drunk. Think I’m off the hook – ?” Then it just got silly…and it’s only ‘silly’ until it happens to you.

So ED is the inability to get or maintain an erection that is suitable for intercourse. Masturbation isn’t mentioned, although I’d assume that counts. ED is serious for those that have it, and for sure, it can create distress, anxiety and certainly lead to relationship problems. Researchers however couldn’t resist having a bit of fun with the results of the studies which linked ED with potential heart problems – saying that a broken heart can literally lead to sex problems…get it?

Medications, such as SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) can also cause ED, although if one is prescribed such medications the doctor will or should inform you of the potential, and often temporary problem, but if not, it is listed in the indications sheet that comes with the prescription.

The main drugs to treat ED are known as Viagra, Cialis and Levitra and the companies that produce them are expected to see a decline in their profits by 2019 as patents on them expire, thereby making cheaper generics available to those patients seeking a more affordable solution. If you don’t have coverage, I can tell you, those pills are expensive, (apparently…).

Recently a European company received approval of a drug named Vitaros® which is described as an on-demand cream with a permeation enhancer, “which directly increases blood flow to the penis, causing an erection.” Although, as one may imagine, those drugs do not cure the cause of ED they just allow the patient to momentarily overcome the result.

ED has been estimated to affect 45% of men with diabetes. Research in those with diabetes has indicated that treating ED is more difficult and may require more second and even third line therapies. There is however some hope in a non-pharmaceutical form. There is a possible correlation between those who eat more fruit and vegetables and a decreased risk of having ED in diabetics. Of course, eating more fruit and veg has no downside effects on one’s health.

And appropriately enough, given the zeitgeist we should end on a high note. Cannabis may prevent Erectile Dysfunction caused by high cholesterol – in mice. Hypercholesterolemia is the presence of high cholesterol in the blood, which can lead to ED. Mice were fed a ‘western type’ of diet and got high cholesterol, and it apparently affected their erectile function. The scientist must have blown some smoke their way and discovered that things got better for the mice in question. Again, it does not cure the cause of the dysfunction, but apparently there is some evidence that cannabis may help to alleviate ED in mice…