When Men Don't Get Treated For Erectile Dysfunction, This Is What Happens

Millions of men around the country live with erectile dysfunction (ED), yet a large number of them never seek treatment. According to a research survey conducted by SingleCare, out of 500 male participants affected by symptoms of ED either presently or in the past, 39% reported that they'd left the condition untreated. Others reported delaying treatment, with 11% of men saying they waited one to two years before seeking care, while 6% of respondents reported delaying treatment by as many as five years or more.

Also referred to as impotence, a person with erectile dysfunction has difficulty maintaining a firm erection for the purpose of sexual intercourse (via Mayo Clinic). Many people assume that ED and other changes in sexual health are part of growing older, and although it's not unusual to experience sexual difficulties on occasion, symptoms that persist may indicate a health issue. In this event, the condition may worsen without treatment. Leaving ED untreated can also increase the risk of certain mental health conditions. Let's take a look at some of the different health problems that may develop if men don't seek treatment for ED.

Untreated ED may lead to undetected heart disease

Research has shown that erectile dysfunction and heart problems appear to be closely intertwined. According to a 2021 scientific review published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, men with ED are reportedly 59% more susceptible to ischemic heart disease and 34% more prone to stroke. Similarly, SingleCare reports that men with ED experience double the number of heart attacks and strokes compared to people who are not affected by the condition. The opposite relationship also appears to exist, with the presence of cardiovascular risk factors shown to boost the chances of erectile dysfunction.

So what might happen if men delay or completely opt out of treatment? Cases of heart disease may be left undetected and progressively worsen. The same can happen if men go about seeking ED treatment drugs from unregulated sources, according to researchers from a 2010 study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine. Out of more than 11,800 European men, three out of 10 men reported getting ED medication off the internet. Taking such medications may not only be dangerous, but the researchers also emphasized that these men don't get access to a healthcare professional who could potentially diagnose cases of underlying heart disease related to their ED symptoms.

Men may develop anxiety or depression

Untreated erectile dysfunction may leave a person more vulnerable to depression or anxiety, according to a 2023 study published in BMC Psychology. Self-reported data was collected between the summer of 2021 and the spring of 2022 from more than 500 male Chinese adults diagnosed with ED. The research findings showed that rates of anxiety stood at just over 38%, with rates of depression standing at nearly 65%. Almost one-third of patients reported symptoms of both disorders. Rankings of ED severity ranged from no symptoms experienced whatsoever to varying degrees of mild, moderate, and severe ED symptoms. The more severe the symptoms, the higher the risk for anxiety and depression.

Findings from a 2020 study published in BMC Primary Care revealed feelings of embarrassment to be the primary treatment barrier reported by adult men experiencing erectile dysfunction. While stigma and systemic barriers to accessible healthcare still need addressing, exploring treatment options with your doctor can help prevent additional related health issues. Mayo Clinic experts note that ED treatments may include prescription medication, surgery, or the use of a vacuum erection device. Mental health counseling or lifestyle changes may also be helpful, such as adding this healthy snack to your diet.