Doctors who specialise in the field of erectile dysfunction (ED) say too few men and their GPs are aware that new drug treatments are now available, and men are frequently too embarrassed to seek help.
"What we are trying to communicate is that ED is a disorder that can affect males of all age groups. In about 85 per cent of cases the condition has an organic or physical element caused by arterial disease," said Dr Geoff Hackett, consultant in erectile dysfunction at the Good Hope Hospital, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands.
It was not primarily a psychological condition he said.
In a pilot survey they found GPs identify only one in 20 patients with ED although in any two weeks 2.3 million men will have this sexual difficulty. They say that 5 per cent of men have a permanent problem.
The specialists, who have formed the British Erectile Dysfuntion Society, are now starting the first survey in this country into the effects of the problem on love lives, marriages, self esteem and work.
In the pilot study last year covering 10 GP practices in the Midlands they found that ED was experienced by 51 per cent of men with diabetes all or some of the time, and 39 per cent of diabetic men had erectile dysfunction all the time.
But in the control group of healthy men, as many as 23 per cent had ED. The problem increased with age . Thirty-five per cent of men over 60 had ED and 58 per cent of men over 70.
Dr Hackett said that over the past 10 years the problem had become accessible to treatment with new diagnostic methods and new drugs. Previously in otherwise healthy men impotence was routinely put down to psychological causes. Dr Hackett said it was now accepted that 40 per cent of cases had psychological causes.
He said an important drug in the treatment of ED is prostaglandin E1 which dilates the blood vessels, increasing blood flow to the penis. "Apart from treatment it is very useful in establishing whether or not a problem is psychological." A small amount of the drug will show a normal blood flow.
The drug is injected into the penis and enables a man to maintain an erection for about an hour.Reuse content