A man’s ability to achieve and sustain an erection depends on the healthy operation of a network of systems that cause vascular tissue in the penis to fill with blood. For an erection to take place, an adequate blood supply must circulate to the penis, the nerves must function properly, and they must receive stimuli from the brain. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the term used to describe a malfunction in one of these systems. Approximately 15-30 million American men suffer from erectile dysfunction, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Erectile dysfunction is associated with a wide variety of physical and psychological conditions including diabetes, excess weight, stress, performance anxiety, and hormonal imbalances. Over 200 prescription medications can cause erectile dysfunction as a side effect, as can smoking, drinking alcohol and using illegal drugs.
Anatomically, there are two sponge-like chambers, called the corpora cavernosa, which run the length of the penis. To initiate an erection, the brain and body send signals that relax the muscles of the corpora cavernosa, allowing blood vessels to open up. Blood flows in, and the penis expands.
ED is closely related to lifestyle diseases. In diabetics for example, impairment of blood vessels and nerves are typical symptoms. The hardened blood vessels can not expand and sufficient blood inflows, essential for erection, do not occur. In hypertension, high blood pressure stresses the blood vessels, which become narrow and damaged. As with diabetics, damaged blood vessels reduce blood flow and cause ED.
Medications for ED can have positive results, and Sildenafil (Viagra) is one of the most popular. However, as with any medication, there may be side effects. Sildenafil must NOT be taken by anyone who is using nitrates because it can cause the blood pressure to drop dangerously low. The most common adverse effects of sildenafil also include headache, dyspepsia (gastrointestinal distress), nasal congestion and impaired vision. Many sildenafil users have experienced red eyes, puffy faces, and hot flushing after taking it, which can make the patient feel less attractive.
Acupuncture addresses energy and blood flow in the body. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), energy (Qi) flows in channels called meridians. These channels course the entire body and supply energy and stimulate blood flow to all areas – including the penis. If a meridian is blocked, there will be stagnation and dysfunction. Acupuncture helps increase the circulation of your body’s Qi energy and blood, encouraging your body to do what it should do naturally. Acupuncture is also a balancing therapy, returning the body, mind and spirit to a balanced state. Used for thousands of years to treat ED, Acupuncture, along with Chinese herbs, offer powerful tools. They can be safely used as a replacement for and along with Western therapies. TCM also recommends the following foods to help with impotence: scallions, lamb, sea cucumber, shrimp, bitter melon seeds, ginseng, black beans, kidney beans, yams and lychee fruit
Many people may be concerned about the placement of needles, but they are not placed in or near sensitive private areas. Needles are placed in the extremities, back and stomach, according to whole body treatment principles. Acupuncture does not have any serious side effects, and because acupuncture reduces stress, you will look better and feel more relaxed.
Toru Kodama is a licensed acupuncturist specializing in men’s health issues. Toru can be reached at AcQpoint Wellness Center in La Quinta 760.775.7900