Most people think of erections in the context of a sexual event. Experts, however, see it as a neurovascular event, meaning it involves both your nervous system as well as your blood vessels.
Many scientific studies on erectile dysfunction have focused on the cardiovascular aspect of erections. However, the neurological problems associated with erectile dysfunction are not as well known. Here are five central nervous system disorders that usually result in erectile dysfunction.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Erectile dysfunction usually develops after a spinal cord injury, with a prevalence as high as around 80%. If the spinal cord injury affects the nerve pathways that are involved in the erection process, then erectile dysfunction almost always follows.
The degree and severity of erectile dysfunction following a spinal cord injury will depend on which part of the spinal cord is affected. The extent of the lesion or damage to your spinal cord may also play a role in the severity of your erectile dysfunction.
For instance, if the injury affects the L3 or L4 spinal segment located in your lower back, you may still be able to achieve reflexogenic erections. This means that when your penis is directly stimulated, such as when your partner strokes or caresses your penis, you may still be able to achieve penile rigidity.
When the sacral and lumbar segments of your spine are affected, you may also still achieve psychogenic erections. This is the type of erection that you get when you think of something sexy, or when you become sexually aroused because of visual or auditory sexual stimuli such as when you’re watching porn.
Both types of erections are actually controlled by the nerves found in the lowermost part of your spine. So if that’s the part of your spinal cord that’s affected by the injury, then it will be extremely difficult for you to achieve an erection after your injury.
If you’ve had a cerebrovascular accident, it simply means that you had a stroke. Cerebrovascular accidents happen when a blood vessel is ruptured or blocked, causing the flow of blood to a part of your brain to be cut off.
A stroke can happen in any part of your brain, and sexual dysfunction may follow, depending on the location of the cerebrovascular accident. In general, sexual dysfunction affects around 48% of men who have had a cardiovascular accident. Sexual dysfunction may be in the form of a decline in libido, ejaculation problems, or erectile dysfunction.
Studies have shown that when a cerebrovascular accident occurs in the right occipital area of your brain, then it will most likely lead to erectile dysfunction. Your occipital lobe is the part of the brain that’s in charge of processing visual information and perceptions.
A stroke affecting the right thalamic region can also lead to erectile dysfunction. That’s because the right thalamus plays an important role in the relay of sensory and motor signals. Erectile dysfunction may also develop when a cardiovascular accident affects the left parietal lobe.
Erectile dysfunction is quite common in men with seizure disorders like epilepsy. Epilepsy is often described as a chronic neurologic disorder. People with epilepsy suffer from episodes of seizures that are recurring.
Several factors contribute to the high incidence of erectile dysfunction in men with epilepsy. For instance, epilepsy is associated with endocrine disorders and neurologic problems. The disease is also tied to various psychiatric problems. All of these can contribute to erectile dysfunction.
To add to the problem, medications that are usually prescribed for the management of epilepsy are also known to cause various adverse sexual effects. These medications include carbamazepine, valproate, topiramate, phenytoin, and pregabalin
Multiple sclerosis is another example of central nervous system disorders that cause sexual dysfunction. The disease is often described as a demyelinating disease. That’s because when you have multiple sclerosis, the myelin sheath protecting your nerve fibers get damaged.
Multiple sclerosis can lead to sexual dysfunction in three ways. When the sexual dysfunction is due to neurological damage induced by multiple sclerosis, it’s categorized as primary sexual dysfunction.
This type of sexual dysfunction can occur when the damaged neurons are involved in your motor and sensory pathways. This means that you may experience decreased sexual sensations. It can also negatively impact your ability to achieve penile rigidity.
However, multiple sclerosis may also cause secondary or tertiary sexual dysfunction. The former occurs when the sexual problems are due to the symptoms, physical impairments, and medications associated with multiple sclerosis. The latter happens when sexual dysfunction occurs as a result of the psychosocial effects of multiple sclerosis.
With secondary sexual dysfunction, fatigue and reduced mobility can lead to a decrease in your sex drive. Multiple sclerosis can also trigger painful spasms, and this may make it difficult for you to engage in sexual activities. On the one hand, tertiary sexual dysfunction may occur when you suffer from an altered body image or low self-esteem.
Parkinson’s disease is another central nervous system disorder that can also cause erectile dysfunction. The disease actually causes neurodegeneration, meaning the structure and functions of your neurons deteriorate. The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease eventually lead to progressive disability.
The prevalence of sexual problems in patients with Parkinson’s disease is very high, with almost 70% of male patients developing erectile dysfunction. Many also experience impaired ejaculatory and orgasmic function. That’s because Parkinson’s disease affects the nerve pathways that control erection and arousal.
Managing Sexual Dysfunction
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It also contains herbs such as Tribulus terrestris, Tongkat Ali, and horny goat weed. These are all known to have significant positive effects on erectile function. In fact, these herbs are popularly used in traditional medicine as remedies for impotence, low libido, and reduced sexual stamina.