Sexual impotence, also defined as erectile dysfunction, is a very common problem which affects most men at least once during their lifetime. The incidence of erectile dysfunction varies with age, and increases in the proportion of affected men, from 7 to 8 %, from 20 to 39 years of age; to 55-60 %, in men older than 70 years; according to a study carried out in the USA. The largest increase is seen in men in the range of 60-69 years. Is is estimated that at least 10 million men suffer from chronic impotence in the USA, and that at least 20 million more men have less severe forms of erectile dysfunction associated to age, chronic health problems or psychological problems.
Although in the past sexual impotence was regarded as having almost exclusively psychic causes, we now know that from 85 to 90 % of all cases of erectile dysfunction have organic causes, such as peripheral vascular diseases, diabetes, imbalances in the sexual hormones, the effect of medications, etc. This has encouraged medical science to discover new forms of treatment, which are available and work well for a large number of patients. These treatments range from oral tablets and vasoactive drugs which can be injected into the penis, to vacuum pumps and implantable penis prostheses. Efectiveness of therapies may range from 40 to 90 %, depending on the proper choice of method.
However, the psychological factor is always important, because erectile dysfunction may severely affect self-esteem, provoke anxiousness and depression, and make the problem even worse, by an interaction of psychic factors with organic ones. These problems may affect indirectly the female partner, particularly when there are marital or interpersonal problems.
In this article, you will know more about the following topics:
In future issues of Brain & Mind, we will discuss other common sexual disorders in men and women, such as premature ejaculation, frigidity or orgasmic disorders, pain in the sexual act, etc.
M.E. Sabbatini is a neuroscientist with a PhD in neurophysiology of
behavior by the University of São
Paulo, Brasil, and a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Behavioral
Physiology of the Max-Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Munich, Germany.
Currently, Dr. Sabbatini is the director of the Center
for Biomedical Informatics and Chairman of Medical Informatics of the
Medical School of the State University
of Campinas, Campinas, Brazil. He is also the associate editor of "Brain
& Mind" magazine, and editor-in-chief of Intermedic,
a journal on Internet and Medicine.
Helena Cardoso, PhD. Psychobiologist, master and doctor in Sciences
by the University of São Paulo and post doctoral fellowship by the
University of California, Los Angeles. Invited Professor and Associate
Researcher of the Center for Biomedical Informatics, State University of
Campinas (Unicamp), Brazil.
for Biomedical Informatics
State University of Campinas, Brazil
Copyright 1997 State University of Campinas