In everyday conversation, sexual problems are often lumped together under the same heading.
But in actuality, there are a number of striking differences between the most common types of sexual dysfunction, which can have any number of causes.
These aren’t by any means exclusive, and it is possible to have more than one type of disorder of this kind.
A question many people ask when it comes to male sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction, loss of libido and premature ejaculation, is whether there is a link between them, and whether one can cause the other.
It’s a tricky question to give a simple yes or no answer to, because the truth is that in some instances, there may be no link at all, but in others, one may indirectly cause the other.
Here is our guide to three of the most commonly talked-about sexual problems, and their relationship (or lack thereof) with ED:
Premature Ejaculation vs Erectile Dysfunction
It’s not an easy condition to pin down, because it occurs on an at least occasional basis for most.
But premature ejaculation is said to be present if the male partner climaxes within one or two minutes of engaging in penetrative intercourse with persisting regularity (the average for most men is generally considered to be between four and seven minutes).
There are several reasons why someone may be ejaculating too soon.
In those cases where the condition is present from an early age, referred to as primary PE, masturbatory habits may train a need to climax quickly.
Secondary cases of PE are those where symptoms begin after a history of normal ejaculatory function, and may be brought on by nervousness or pressure to perform in a new relationship.
While an erection is required for penetration to occur, a popular misconception is that ejaculation can’t take place without an erection being present. This isn’t true. The male partner doesn’t have to be erect in order to be able to climax.
A man does also not need to ejaculate in order to get rid of an erection.
In terms of direct biology, there is no link between these two conditions.
However, indirectly, one may lead to the other. For example, if a man is concerned about premature ejaculation prior to getting an erection, anxiety related to this possible eventuality may cause erectile problems.
This consequential relationship works both ways: those who are susceptible to erectile problems, who do manage to get an erection strong enough for penetration, may be so concerned about staying firm, that they climax too quickly.
Erectile dysfunction treatments are not prescribed for premature ejaculation. But studies have found that medicines like sildenafil can help to counter the problems caused by it.
An investigation carried out by Australian scientists into the use of Viagra in premature ejaculation cases reported that it 'increased confidence, the perception of ejaculatory control, and overall sexual satisfaction' in studied subjects.
It was also reported that the ‘refractory’ time between ejaculation and getting a second erection was reduced; implying that, in theory, those who are prone to premature ejaculation would benefit from taking Viagra, as they would be able to resume penetration within a shorter time and subsequently be better able to satisfy their partner.
One other study found that sildenafil produced better results in treating premature ejaculation than paroxetine (an antidepressant which is not medically designated for PE but has shown beneficial results in clinical trials) and ‘pause-squeeze technique’ (a masturbatory practice which involves applying pressure to the head of the penis right before the point of climax), with 86 per cent of those issued with sildenafil wishing to continue treatment with it; compared to 60 per cent of those using paroxetine and 45 per cent using the technique.
Infertility vs Erectile Dysfunction
Male infertility can be caused by low numbers of sperm, or reduced sperm mobility, and results in an inability or decreased capacity to successfully conceive.
There are a number of reasons why a man may be infertile, but erectile dysfunction is not one of them; nor is it an indicator of the condition.
ED and infertility share a link in that they can both be exacerbated by low testosterone levels.
In addition, if a couple is attempting to conceive but the male partner is unable to get an erection sufficient for intercourse, then this is an example of ED-induced failure to conceive.
But erectile dysfunction is by no means an indicator of low sperm count.
Those who are experiencing erectile problems may be able to overcome symptoms with prescription impotence treatment.
However, the jury is still out on whether ED pills interfere with the production of healthy sperm. Some studies and news stories have suggested that drugs like Viagra can have an adverse effect on sperm function, while others have noted no ill effects.
In any case, if you are trying to conceive but are experiencing erectile difficulties, it is advisable to seek advice from your doctor.
Loss of Libido vs Erectile Dysfunction
Many people assume that loss of libido and erectile dysfunction are the same thing, but they are not.
Decreased libido is a reduced desire to have sex, which may be induced by one or more of several factors, such as depression, stress, relationship troubles, or even an undiagnosed medical issue.
The two conditions however are not exclusive, and it is common for them to be present in tandem; persistent instances of erectile dysfunction may have an effect on libido, and reduced libido may inhibit a man’s capacity to achieve an erection.
At the same time though, it is important to remember that erectile dysfunction is not necessarily an indicator of reduced sexual desire.
Contrary to the belief of many, it is absolutely possible for a man to be sexually aroused but have trouble getting an erection. This could be down to poor blood flow, but it could also be a simple issue of anxiety or pressure to perform.
Prescription treatment can help men with erectile problems to overcome a rough patch, and curtail the possibility of resultant issues. But it is not be considered a direct solution for loss of libido.
One investigation published in the Annals of Clinical Psychiatry suggested that sildenafil provides beneficial results in those men experiencing problems induced by antidepressant medication, but this same study concluded that more research needed to be undertaken to examine this method of use.
- Overcoming Sexual Dysfunction
The vital first step to overcoming the above conditions is to talk to your partner.
In the case of loss of libido or premature ejaculation, a reassuring conversation may be enough to steer you onto the path to recovery.
If it isn’t, help is available from your GP. For those experiencing problems conceiving, your doctor will also be to suggest some self-help measures to improve your chances of getting pregnant, or, if necessary put you in touch with a specialist who can provide further guidance and treatment options.
The links between ED and the other sexual problems described above are largely indirect, and the presence of impotence is neither a definitive indication of them, nor an ultimately determining factor in their cause.
What might be the most important aspect of persistent cases of erectile dysfunction to consider are the possible non-sexual conditions associated with it.
Although most men will encounter erectile issues on an occasional basis, those who notice repeat episodes should talk to their doctor, to rule out the possibility of diabetes, or high blood pressure.