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How did doctors come around to the term erectile dysfunction?

As you may know, the blockbuster drug Viagra only came about because of a happy side effect of a drug called sildenafil that scientists were studying as a possible treatment for a heart condition called angina. The drug didn’t do much for angina, but the men involved in the original clinical trials reported that when they took sildenafil, it was easier to have an erection. In some cases it allowed men who were incapable of having sex to once again enjoy physical intimacy.

Doctors took these reported “side effects” seriously and ended up discovering a wealth of new insights about the causes of erection problems.

Maybe these problems weren’t “neuroses” after all, but the result of vascular issues that could be addressed with medication. Once researchers figured out why sildenafil (Viagra) helped men have stronger erections, other drug developers started working on their own versions of the drugs.

All the drugs commonly used to treat erectile dysfunction belong to a drug class called PDE-5 inhibitors. By inhibiting the action of an enzyme called PDE-5, the medications allow the smooth muscle cells lining blood vessels to relax. Hence in the presence of sexual stimulation, more blood could flow to the penis, and men who previously had difficulty with erections got their sexual functioning back.

Erectile dysfunction can be medically addressed in the vast majority of cases.

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