Erectile dysfunction is generally thought of as a condition only affecting older men, but a new study shows just how many young men may also have ED.
The study, published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, shows that one in four men at an outpatient clinic who sought help for erectile dysfunction (a condition where a man has a problem having or maintaining an erection) was actually under the age of 40. Plus, nearly half of those men under age 40 -- 48.8 percent of them -- had a severe case of the sexual condition, compared with 40 percent of men older than age 40.
"Erectile function, in general, is a marker for overall cardiovascular function -- this is the first research showing evidence of severe erectile dysfunction in a population of men 40 years of age or younger" Irwin Goldstein, editor-in-chief of The Journal of Sexual Medicine, said in a statement.
"Clinically, when younger patients have presented with erectile dysfunction, we have in the past had a bias that their ED was primarily psychologic-based and vascular testing was not needed," he added. "We now need to consider regularly assessing the integrity of arterial inflow in young patients -- identifying arterial pathology in such patients may be very relevant to their overall long-term health."
The study is based on data from 439 men who visited an outpatient clinic between 2010 and 2012 for newly developed erectile dysfunction. Twenty-six percent of those men were 40 or younger; these men weighed less, had more blood levels of testosterone, and had fewer medical conditions than their older counterparts. However, they also smoked or used illegal drugs with more frequency than the men older than 40.
Researchers found that the men 40 and younger were more likely to experience premature ejaculation than the older men, but the older men were more likely to experience a condition where the erection is bent because of scar tissue, which is called Peyronie's disease.
A study recently presented at a meeting of the European Association of Urology also showed that erectile dysfunction isn't being treated very often, with only 25.4 percent of men in the study being treated for the condition.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, as many as 52 percent of men experience erectile dysfunction, with it affecting 40 percent of men age 40, and 70 percent of men age 70. Men who have heart disease, diabetes and are taking certain medications have higher risks of experiencing erectile dysfunction.
CORRECTION: A previous headline for this article misrepresented the number of men under 40 who have erectile dysfunction because it did not specify that it was among men seeking treatment for the condition. It has been changed to reflect this correction.