It’s a subject that blokes dread talking about, with 1 in 4 saying they would rather end their relationship than see a GP about their erectile dysfunction (ED). But it’s a common problem – 59% of men have struggled to get or keep an erection during sex at some point. So we spoke to a doctor to answer your questions…
Q: My partner has started to lose his erections. What should I do?
A: "Erectile dysfunction can put a strain on a relationship, and it’s easy to speculate on the cause or try to take the blame," says Dr Gigi Taguri, an Online Doctor.
"But it can be the result of a range of health issues and age-related problems – plus some medications can also contribute."
Although it can be a tough topic to raise, a good chat should be your first port of call.
"Talking can quickly help determine the root cause, whether money stress or family problems," says Dr Gigi. "Gentle encouragement to speak to a healthcare professional is a good next step once the subject has been broached."
Q: Why does my partner find it so hard to talk about?
ALSO READ: My word: Time to take that bold step?
A: Your partner isn’t alone: nearly half of men admit to not seeking help physically and mentally.
"Some men can feel that ED is a reflection of their masculinity, so feel embarrassed to discuss any problems," says Dr Gigi.
"But it’s nothing to be ashamed of – it affects most men at some point in their lives – whether that’s a one-off or an ongoing problem. It can be a difficult topic to broach, but communication is key."
Carefully pick your time to chat: choose a relaxed, private setting in an environment where your partner doesn’t feel vulnerable or taken by surprise, and reassure him that it’s a common problem and absolutely isn’t his fault.
Q: Can he just pop a pill to solve the problem?
A: It used to be the case that erectile dysfunction medication, such as Viagra, was only available on prescription, but a few months ago the famous little blue pill became available over the counter.
Rebranded as Viagra Connect and sold for KES500 a tablet, it helps more than 3 million Brits manage their ED each year.
But if your man is losing his erection on a regular basis and not just after a few too many pints, it’s important that he speaks to his GP.
"ED can be a sign of a more serious health condition, such as high blood pressure, prostate problems and type 2 diabetes, so it’s important to be tested," explains Dr Gigi.
"Plus Viagra Connect won’t work miracles, and will only have the desired effect if you feel sexually aroused."
What's happened to his libido?
A slowing down of libido – or sex drive – is a natural part of ageing for many people, male and female.
"Loss of libido is a common problem. It can stem from health problems, such as reduced hormone levels, to emotional ones, such as depression, tiredness or stress," says Dr Gigi.
"That said, everyone’s libido is different and some people have higher sex drives than others."
In women, there’s often a sudden drop off in levels of sexual desire after the menopause, as levels of oestrogen decrease. But for men, hormone levels tend to decline more gradually. Your partner should speak to his GP, because just as women may be prescribed hormone-replacement therapy (HRT), men may benefit from testosterone replacement therapy.
FACT: Men in their 40s and 50s report suffering less than those in their 30s
Three things that really do work
1. Checking your current medication
ED is an unfortunate side effect of many medications used to treat everything from depression to high blood pressure. Even common drugs, such as steroids and antihistamines, are known to interfere in the bedroom. Talk to your GP – a simple switch of medication could work wonders.
Sex therapy has been shown to work for 58% of men who suffer from erectile dysfunction. Problems can often be linked to psychological issues, and the more men worry about them, the worse it gets. Talking it through can ease stress and help your man stop overthinking things.
3. Diet and exercise
There isn’t much that lifestyle changes won’t help with, and ED is no different. Obesity, smoking and alcohol abuse all play a part in a man’s ability to get it up, and it comes as no surprise that almost 40% of blokes found that making healthier food choices combined with regular exercise improved their ED.