The lack of data and protocols in identifying, diagnosing and treating sexual disorders in general and erectile dysfunction in particular tend to favor the maintenance of myths and ignorance, with serious impact on the quality of life of all individuals and couples affected. The objective of this study was to identify the main characteristics and correlates of erectile dysfunction which are key elements in improving the diagnosis procedure, comorbidities prevention and the implementation of efficient treatment protocols, the aims of our main research project. Preliminary data of an erectile dysfunction screening in a Romanian population are discussed.
Keywords: sexual disorders, erectile dysfunction, screening
Sexual activity is very important for most individuals, regardless of age, sex or sexual orientation. However, throughout our lifespan, different changes at the physical or psychological level may influence, among others, our sex life. Moreover, most women and men occasionally experience sexual difficulties. If these sexual difficulties prevent the individual or couple from enjoying sexual activity during any phase of the sexual response cycle (desire, arousal, orgasm and resolution) and if they cause distress and interpersonal problems, sexual disorders are very likely to be present.
Since people tend to avoid talking about their sexual problems, many people develop various myths about what is and what is not normal when it comes to sex life. Society, media or religion tend to shape unrealistic or dysfunctional images of sexual behavior. The lack of acknowledgement of certain disorders and over diagnosing others are, to a certain extent, common phenomena. Sexual disorders can also be often mistaken for various symptoms of several other mental disorders (such as affective and anxiety disorders) as they appear together quite frequently. The lack of data and protocols in identifying, diagnosing and treating these disorders tends to favor the maintenance of myths and ignorance, with serious impact on the quality of life.
Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as (male) impotence, is one of the most frequent sexual disorders; ED is defined as the inability to achieve or maintain an erection of the penis sufficient to permit a satisfactory sexual intercourse (Coman, 2004). Although ED is referred to as a benign pathology, it has a significant negative effect on the patients, their couple lives and their socioprofessional performances. The incidence and prevalence of ED have grown remarkably lately, not only because of the population aging effect and of the increasingly higher action of risk factors on the general population, but also because of the beginning of use, at the end of the last millennium, of oral medication against this pathology, medication that had the role to raise awareness of the masculine population regarding this pathology.
The socio-cultural prejudice and the perception that ED is part of the aging process have led to a poor addressing of elderly men to doctors [contrary to the general perception, Helgason (1996) indicates that 13% of the patients aged 50 to 80 consider sexual activity to be very important, 29% see it as important, 41% consider occasional sexual acts to be pleasant and only 17% consider sex not to be important]. Most patients turn to medical assistance only in severe cases of the pathology, when the diagnosis and the treatment are more complex and costly.
On a global level, the prevalence of ED is over 500 million men; estimative data (Ayac et al., 1999) predict a doubling of the prevalence of ED in 2025, this problem becoming thereby a serious public health issue. Among the Eastern European countries, Romania has the highest prevalence of ED, 25% in the general population, which means that one out of four men experience such difficulties. According to the CLOSER study (Porav-Hodade, et al., 2007) ED is even more frequent in older men; more than half of men over 50 years of age have different levels of ED. …