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Why some men suffer erectile dysfunction in silence

One medical condition many men in the country try to hide from others or view as a death sentence is Erectile Dysfunction (ED). Some men…

One medical condition many men in the country try to hide from others or view as a death sentence is Erectile Dysfunction (ED). Some men are embarrassed to seek medical care for the problem while others resort to unorthodox remedies because of their ignorance about the condition.

As a result, many men suffer in silence for long for what could have ordinarily been cured.

When Mallam Shehu Mustapha (not real name) began experiencing erectile dysfunction in his 50s, he was confused. It started gradually; came on and off and became worse as weeks turned to months and then years.

Mustafa said he initially felt ashamed to seek medical care for fear that people would know that he was no longer a man and because it did not have a cure.

However, he said he was later able to seek care at a hospital and got treated.

Dr. Aghanya Chukwunonso, a Senior Registrar at the Endocrinology Unit of the Federal Teaching Hospital, Gombe, said people who developed ED saw it as a death sentence because most times men kept sexuality issues to themselves.

Dr. Chukwunonso said, “They should come out and see doctors as they are the ones that can cure and treat them. When they come to us, they can be treated and have their normal sex life and live happily with their wives.

“Moreover, people should be patient when they are put on drugs, because when people start taking drugs, they expect them to work automatically, but it takes some time before they become functional.

“Erectile dysfunction is the inability to sustain and maintain an erection for a certain amount of time; with firmness to achieve a full sexual intercourse in more than 25 per cent of attempts, or the inability to achieve and sustain an erection for a particular period of time without firmness to achieve a satisfactory sexual intercourse.”

He said a man needed to have an erection and sustain it with firmness to be able to penetrate and satisfy his partner during sexual intercourse.

He further said there were many misconceptions and myths surrounding the condition depending on the individual, his religion and tribe.

“Why I say tribe is because there is this thing the Yoruba people call magun; that if you sleep with someone’s wife you will not have an erection again or you would be stuck inside. So when you have sex with somebody’s wife and you happen to be from that tribe, it would psychologically affect you.

“Also, another tribe will believe that someone is pursuing them from the village, that it is a wicked uncle or aunty that doesn’t want them to have children. These are some of the myths,” he said.

The medical expert said the cause of the condition could be classified into two: psychogenic and organic.

“Psychogenic means anything that doesn’t have a definite cause in the sense that psychology is involved; like loss of someone close to you, when one has extra marital affairs, loses a job and any other thing that touches a person’s psychology can affect him in having a full erection.

“Organic is when there is a multiplier cause which can be classified into medical causes like diabetes, neurogenic disorders, spinal code injuries, life style such as serious smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, atherosclerosis (clogged blood vessels around penis) when it covers the penis too tight to allow it from expanding during erection. What happens during erection is that there is increase blood supply to the penile muscles, when there is low flow of blood to the area, erectile dysfunction can occur,” Dr. Chukwunonso said.

He said age was another factor that caused erectile dysfunction because aged people did not do things normally like young people.

“Because as we get aged every organ becomes old and weak. So you can’t expect an old man to have the same erection as a young man. And then also, psychology plays a role in aged and elderly people. They will feel that they are tired and why would they engage in sex again. But medically, there is no age that a man can stop having a full erection,” he said.

He said the symptoms depended on the cause, like having loss of libido and not having interest in sex at all as “these can come with depression depending on the cause. There is also diabetic complication. But basically, its major symptom is the inability to have a sustained erection to satisfy one’s partner.

Also, pre-mature ejaculation can be classified as a symptom of erectile dysfunction because for sex to be satisfactory it has to cover both the erection and the sperm production to achieve satisfaction during sex,” he added.

He said the condition was genetic and that erectile dysfunction could occur in situations where there was no adequate sexual development in men and also in people with hypogonadism – a condition in which the testicles do not work the way they should or a failure of the testes to produce the male sex hormone; testosterone, sperm or both.

He added that the condition could be prevented if the cause was known. “For instance, for the organic cause like diabetes which is a common cause; when a patient is diabetic you can counsel him depending on the time of presentation. What you need is to achieve a good glucose control on the patient so that he can become normal because glucose complication in the body can cause erectile dysfunction.

“For people that have penile shaft problem we can do a surgery and correct the problem. But if it is psychological, a person would be put through counseling; he will also be advised to face his wife and probably discuss what brought the problem,” he said.


Treatment depends on the individual, for people with psychogenic, it is to assure and encourage them that they can still have full erection. A counseling session will be organised for them and their partners and the problem can be solved.

He added that treatment for organic causes also depended on the factors causing the problem.

“For those that have spinal code injuries, we try to bring the nerves back to function. Also, for those with medical problems like diabetes, we try to control the glucose level in the blood. Such patients can be cured with some enhancers, there are some drugs that we give to these people and it can help,” Dr. Chukwunonso said.


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