Doctors are 'exploiting' impotent with pounds 1,000 cure

MEN WHO suffer from impotence are being exploited by doctors who promise to cure them for as much as pounds 1,000 for a course of treatment, but ignore the underlying problem, psychologists were told yesterday.

The treatment - injections into the penis to produce an erection - might cause long-term damage to the complex mechanisms involved, according to Dr John Bancroft, a psychiatrist who heads the Medical Research Council's Behaviour Research Group in its Edinburgh Reproductive Biology Unit.

Speaking at the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Blackpool, he warned against the 'medicalisation of the penis', with men promised one easy solution to their problems in getting or maintaining an erection.

His research has found that if a man has a psychological problem this can prevent even the injections from working.

Claims of a 90 per cent cure had become commonplace, he said.

'Many men are more than ready to part with their money in the hope of getting their erections back.

'There is therefore scope for exploitation. Doctors, in particular urological surgeons, are now taking a very much greater interest in this problem, particularly in the private sector.'

He said that over ten or 12 years there had been a complete swing from the belief that 90 per cent of impotence had a psychological cause, to doctors claiming that the majority of cases had a physical cause. Neither belief had been conclusively tested, he said.

The most popular treatment involves the injections, which men are taught to do for themselves whenever they wanted to have sex. Occasionally these go wrong and the man is unable to lose his erection for many hours. Dr Bancroft said this could cause damage to the delicate structures of erectile tissue.

The injections of prostaglandin or a drug called papaverine relax smooth muscle tissue in the penis to produce an erection. Dr Bancroft said that erectile tissue was sponge-like, made of little sacs or spaces, through which blood flows. The walls of these sacs are lined with smooth muscle. Usually this muscle is contracted, keeping the spaces small and narrow. When they relax in response to sexual stimulus or an injection, the spaces enlarge and fill with blood, producing an erection.

In his study of 160 middle-aged men with what Dr Bancroft calls erectile dysfunction, he found that half had a psychological cause. One method he uses is to measure night-time erections during sleep, in which the men attach a monitoring device to the penis before they go to bed.

'Men who are functioning well will have several erections during sleep, often waking with one. If there are erections then we know there is nothing physically wrong so we should look for another cause,' he said.

Psychological causes were various, but could involve resentment or insecurity in a relationship or loss of confidence in sexual performance. He said that erectile dysfunction was a truly psychosomatic disorder with psychological problems often causing a physical difficulty.

'It is not helpful to reinforce the idea that making love is a purely physical process. We need to understand much more about how the psychological and physical processes interact,' he said.

Dr Bancroft acknowledged the help that physical medicine had been in understanding the processes better and devising series of diagnostic tests. But he said mind and body interactions had now to be understood in seeking the cure for impotence. In the meantime he advised men seeking help to look for clinics where there were psychologists as well as specialists in physical medicine.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £38,000

£16000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Sales Advisor - OTE 18k-23k

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of Ford's leading Parts Who...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to learn ...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders