Sexual Health Center

As men age, the ability to continue healthy sexual activity becomes a common concern. As many as 40 percent of men age 40 and older have some type of sexual dysfunction, or erectile dysfunction (ED), that causes confusion, frustration and disappointment for them and their partners. And this percentage increases as men age.

While sexual health issues have been growing because of increased awareness, William Borkon, MD, urologist with Park Nicollet Sexual Health Center says that, with proper treatment, men can control and overcome ED.

Park Nicollet's Sexual Health Center has been helping men and women with sexual dysfunction for 20 years. And while ED in men remains the most common problem seen at the center, more than 30 percent of the center's new patients are women.

Contributing factors

Many factors cause ED, but the most common is atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). This process often starts when men are young, and can lead to serious health conditions such as heart attack and stroke. In the arteries of the penis, it can lead to ED. "This link between hardening of the arteries and ED has led researchers to study if ED can predict heart disease, and to see if cholesterol control helps prevent ED," Dr. Borkon says.

Anxiety is another common cause of ED. When men are anxious, they release chemicals into their bodies that affect sexual performance. And if they "fail" once, they may be thinking about failing the next time.

Other causes of ED include trauma, diseases of the brain or spinal cord, hormone problems, diabetes, anatomic deformities, such as Peyronie's disease, and pelvic surgery.

Options for care

Today, doctors have many treatment options available, ranging from pills such as ViagraR, to injections, mechanical aids and even surgery, Dr. Borkon reports. The first step is to make an appointment for an evaluation.

Men are encouraged to attend appointments with their partners. "We've seen satisfaction with our treatments improve when both partners are involved, and when patients undergo psychological as well as medical assessments," Dr. Borkon says.

Problems such as anxiety clearly benefit from a psychologist's care, but depression, shame, abuse or even lack of basic sexual education can be addressed privately and confidentially with a sex therapist. And when no psychological problem is found, simply exploring what a couple realistically wants can guide the doctor in making treatment recommendations.

The future of treatment is even more exciting. Researchers are looking at genetically repairing the penis, drugs to stimulate many sexual control centers of the brain and new surgical approaches for both men and women.