In this week’s Love Essentially column, published today in Sun-Times Media localpublications, I decided to address a sensitive topic: Erectile Dysfunction. Why am I posting it on a divorce website? One, for those currently in a relationship or in a second marriage, or perhaps for men and women to reflect back on an issue in their marriage that might have been smaller had they gotten help.
A Relationship Issue No One Wants to Talk About by Jackie Pilossoph
A typical girl’s night out consists of wine, appetizers and lots of talk about dating, relationships and yes, sex. As for what goes on when guys get together to watch football or play poker, I can’t say firsthand.
What I can guarantee is this: There is a subject that neither group dares to discuss, yet it’s an issue that studies show one in two men will experience in their 50s and 60s, which affects spouses as well — erectile dysfunction.
Upon deciding to write about this delicate issue, I reached out to Jeffrey Albaugh, Ph.D. and advanced practice registered nurse, who is the director of sexual health for NorthShore University HealthSystem. Albaugh said despite the common occurrence of ED, no one wants to talk about it.
“Sex is everywhere, but sexual dysfunction is something that is embarrassing, upsetting and devastating,” said Albaugh, who has worked with patients suffering from sexual dysfunction for more than 20 years. “There’s so much stigma attached to it, and that’s not how it’s supposed to be according to the media.”
Albaugh said erectile dysfunction usually begins when men start to age, and it is commonly a comorbid condition caused by diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other issues that impact blood flow or nerve condition.
He said oftentimes, the reason couples don’t seek medical help for ED is because of embarrassment.
“Many patients break into tears in my office because they are so relieved there are treatment options and that they are finally going to get help,” Albaugh said.
Albaugh explained that possible treatments include PDE5 inhibitors, such as Viagra, Cialis or Levitra, but it’s not as simple as popping a pill. He said patients need to be educated on using the medication to maximize its potential and minimize risks.
Other erectile dysfunction treatment options include Korean Red Ginseng, vacuum constriction devices, urethral suppositories, penile injection therapy or surgery.
Albaugh said 80 percent to 90 percent of patients experiencing ED have an underlying physical cause, which means overall better health can prevent or improve the condition.
“Lifestyle choices and living really healthy in terms of diet, exercise, weight control, nonsmoking, minimizing alcohol are all essential,” he said. “If you think about it, cardiovascular health is all about blood flow, which is required for an erection.”
Here’s where things get complicated. Albaugh said once someone starts experiencing ED, they worry about it, they get nervous during sex, adrenaline increases, and it makes the condition even worse. Furthermore, ED can have a huge effect on the person’s spouse, especially when if he is too embarrassed to talk about it.
“Women in my office often start crying and say, ‘I thought it was me. I’m older and not attractive anymore,’” Albaugh said. “The reality is, the man’s desire is there, more than ever, but the blood flow and nervous connection isn’t translating into an erection because of physical conditions, which are made worse by the psychological overlay.”
Talking with Dr. Albaugh made me sad because of that fact that so many couples are suffering in silence from something that has many treatment options.
It takes guts to come out and talk about something like ED, both to your spouse and to a healthcare professional. But, I bet the benefits of ED treatment far outweigh the initial embarrassment you might feel in your doctor’s office.
So, next time you’re at an all girl party, or watching the Bears game with your buddies, mention that you read an article in Sun-Times Media about erectile dysfunction, and that you can’t believe Jackie Pilossoph actually wrote about the subject in a community newspaper. If the statistics are correct, 50% of your friends’ ears will perk up, but the sad truth is, you’ll probably never know that.
I find it alarming that erectile dysfunction is a severe illness that could affect your ability to enjoy sexual activities. I first learned about the term in a newspaper article I read recently. I think it should be a good idea to have this treated by an expert before it affects your relationship in the long term.