Erectile Dysfunction: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

A man has erectile dysfunction (ED) when he routinely can't get or keep an erection that allows satisfactory sex. He may not be able to have an erection at any time. Or he may not be able to have one that is firm enough or lasts long enough to complete intercourse.

ED is not the same as having trouble getting an erection now and then. That's common. It happens to most men at some time.

ED can be caused by problems with the blood vessels, nerves, or hormones. It can be caused by diabetes, heart disease, and injuries. Nerve disorders, such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease, can also cause it.

ED can also be caused by medicines, alcohol, and tobacco. Or it may be caused by depression, stress, grief, or relationship problems.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Lifestyle

  • Limit alcohol. Have no more than 3 drinks a day.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking makes it harder for the blood vessels in the penis to relax and let blood flow in. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Do not use cocaine, heroin, or other illegal drugs.
  • Try to reduce stress.
  • Give yourself time to adjust to change. Changes in your job, family, relationships, home life, and other areas can cause stress. And stress can cause erection problems.

Work with your partner

  • Don't assume that you know what your partner likes when it comes to sex. You may be wrong. Talk about what each of you does and does not enjoy.
  • Make time outside of the bedroom to talk about your sex life. If you avoid sex because you are afraid of having erection problems, your partner may worry that you are no longer interested.
  • If you and your partner have trouble talking about sex, see a therapist who can help you talk about it. Reading books with your partner about sexual health may also help.
  • Relax. Take time for more foreplay. Worrying about your erections may only make things worse.

Medicines

  • Tell your doctor about all the medicines that you take.
    • Some medicines can cause erection problems.
    • Some medicines can have dangerous interactions with medicines that are prescribed for ED, including over-the-counter medicines and herbal products.
  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Talk to your doctor about trying a medicine to help you keep an erection. This could be a medicine such as Viagra, Levitra, or Cialis. If you have a heart problem, ask your doctor if these are safe for you. Do not take these medicines if you take nitroglycerin or other nitrate medicine.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have an erection that lasts longer than 3 hours.
  • You took an erection-enhancing medicine (such as Cialis, Levitra, or Viagra) in the past 24 hours, and you have angina symptoms, such as chest pain or pressure. Do not take nitroglycerin.
  • You have erection problems along with pain or difficulty with urination, fever, or pain in the lower belly.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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