CINCINNATI—If you believe the advertisements, men who experience problems in the bedroom can pop a pill once a day and instantly enjoy more passionate, longer-lasting, satisfying sexual experiences that leave them feeling confident about their manliness.
Naturally, men of all ages are lining up to try the latest miracle drug.
But Ahmad Hamidinia, MD, cautions men to think about what marketers fail to tell you—these “miracle” enhancement drugs can lead to physically and emotionally painful side effects, including impotency.
“We’ve entered an era where talking about sex isn’t taboo,” explains Hamidinia, an associate professor of surgery at the University of Cincinnati (UC) and a urologist at University Hospital. “People aren’t afraid to discuss ways to improve their sexual function, and companies are flooding the market with over-the-counter drugs they claim will solve a couple’s problems in the bedroom—and make men the tigers their wives supposedly want them to be.”
Erectile dysfunction, also known as impotency, is a condition in which a man is consistently unable to get or maintain an erection sufficient enough to have sexual intercourse. The condition is more common in older men, and certain medical conditions—like high blood pressure of diabetes—can increase a man’s risk.
Hamidinia says there are several things every man should understand about male enhancement drugs before popping a pill in the hopes of revving up his sex life:
· Most men have problems with sexual satisfaction, not a medical dysfunction.
Hamidinia says most men have complaints related to sexual satisfaction—a desire for longer-lasting erections or more stamina, for example—versus a physical dysfunction like premature ejaculation or the inability to get an erection and maintain it for his partner’s sexual pleasure.
“Naturally, these issues can lead to sexual misunderstandings and stress between couples,” he explains. “But you have to identify the problem before you can fix it, and pills will not solve this problem. Understanding how your sexual brain works usually will.”
Hamidinia believes that, in most cases, the problem is the man’s lack of understanding about overall sexuality and how to interpret his partner’s body signals.
“Most people choose to address the problem with a quick fix—like an over-the-counter drug—because talking to a doctor or their partner about it is too embarrassing,” he adds.
· Over-the-counter male enhancement drugs are not regulated by the FDA.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate over-the-counter male enhancement drugs and supplements, so the exact pharmacological makeup is unclear, and disclosure of potential side effects is not regularly enforced.
“To prove a drug works, the bias has to be removed by means of a double-blind study that tests for safety, effectiveness and potential drug interactions,” says Hamidinia. “To my knowledge, none of the over-the-counter male enhancement drugs have gone through any such scrutiny.”
· It is unclear which supplements are safe and which are not.
Doctors don’t know the exact contents and dosages contained in over-the-counter male enhancement drugs, so there is a real risk for dangerous drug interactions that could affect your long-term health.
For example, Hamidinia says that some supplements contain yohimbine—an alkaloid obtained from the bark of a West African tree—which increases blood flow. The effect, however, is not isolated to the genitals—it happens throughout the entire body, which can cause serious stress to the heart in men with heart or vascular conditions.
Other supplements contain hormones like testosterone that can contribute to other health complications, such as enlargement of the prostate gland or an increased incidence of prostate cancer.
“Erectile dysfunction can be treated when the underlying cause for the problem is diagnosed by your urologist,” says Hamidinia, “and almost everyone will have some form of sexual dysfunction as they age, whether it manifests as a decrease in arousal, ability to maintain an erection or ejaculation timing.”
But he stresses that problems with sexual function don’t necessarily mean disease.
Misuse or abuse of male enhancement drugs that contain herbal substances can cause serious side effects. The most serious side effect is priapism, a persistent, painful erection that lasts for hours. Priapism, which can occur without sexual stimulation, requires surgical intervention and can eventually lead to erectile dysfunction.
Hamidinia says prescription drugs like Viagra—which are carefully regulated by the FDA—can be effective for men with diagnosed erectile dysfunction, but they should only be used under the advice and supervision of a physician.
For more information on male urological diseases, visit http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov. Appointments can be made with Hamidinia at the UC Medical Arts Building, University Pointe and several local hospitals by calling (513) 475-8787.