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Drugs. 2006;66(18):2339-55.

An overview of the diagnosis and treatment of erectile dysfunction.

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Bristol Urological Institute, Southmead Hospital, Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol, UK.


Epidemiological studies have demonstrated an age-stratified increase in the incidence and prevalence of erectile dysfunction (ED). There is a greater degree of openness today when discussing sexual matters and more information on the treatment of ED is available to the public through the media. Quality-of-life issues are now a matter of great importance to the aging population. Men and their partners are no longer prepared to merely accept ED as a natural consequence of aging. The advent of a simple and effective oral therapy for ED has also indirectly fueled the increase in treatment-seeking behaviour among men. Despite great strides in research into ED, our knowledge and understanding of the pathophysiological mechanisms is still in its infancy. As a result, we are able to treat only the symptom of ED rather than prevent it. Common diseases found in the population, such as diabetes mellitus and coronary artery disease appear to be risk factors for the development of ED. Therefore, physicians need to identify any underlying co-existing organic diseases in their patients presenting with ED. Whenever possible, patients are encouraged to attend their consultation sessions with their partners because ED is a condition affecting 'the couple' and not just the man. Psychogenic aspects of ED should also be explored during the consultation. Efforts need to be made to uncover and address the presence of any psychological stressors, if necessary with the help of a psychosexual therapist. The first-line treatment of ED is oral phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors. For those who do not respond to oral therapy, there is no defined 'step-ladder' escalation in alternative therapy. It is up to the physician to discuss the options with the patient or couple and reach a decision based on their preference.

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