Men’s sexual health issues in the post-Viagra age: What’s changed?

  • Doctors at a Milan-based hospital reported a change in the kind of sexual problems men seek help with
  • Their research was conducted over 10 years
  • The research is the first of its kind, and the team is calling for more inclusive studies 

It seems that nowadays men are not taking their sexual issues as lightly as they did a number of years ago. The nature of their concerns have also seen somewhat of a shift.

According to scientists at San Raffaele Hospital in Milan who surveyed 3 244 male visitors to the San Raffaele Hospital Sexual Health Clinic during a 10-year period (2009 to 2019), fewer men complained about impotence (erectile dysfunction) and premature ejaculation, and more men, especially younger men, presented concerns about low sexual desire and curvature of the penis, otherwise known as Peyronie's disease.

The work was presented at the European Association of Urology (virtual) Congress, and was recently accepted for publication in the International Journal of Impotence Research.

Erectile dysfunction visits decreased

The research, which is believed to be the first of its kind, also revealed that the number of patients visiting with erectile dysfunction (ED) problems increased from 2009 to 2013, then started to decrease. The number of men complaining of premature ejaculation also dropped by about 6% over the 10-year period analysed.

By contrast, the number of patients complaining of low sex drive or Peyronie's disease in 2009 was generally low, but slowly grew over the 10-year period: in 2019 men were around 30% more likely to report Peyronie's disease than in 2009, and around 32% more likely to report low sexual desire.

"Erectile dysfunction is still the main reason for attending the clinic, but this number is dropping, whereas around 35% of men attending the clinic now complain of Peyronie's disease, and that number has shown steady growth," said lead researcher, Dr Paolo Capogrosso.

"Our patients are also getting younger, which may reflect a generational change in attitude to sexual problems," Capogrosso added.

Age drop in men visiting the clinic

Perhaps more interesting is that the average age of first attendance at the clinic shifted from a mean age of 61 to 53 years. Capogrosso also explained that a trend over the past couple of years has emerged, where health clinic visits are increasingly driven by greater openness, and men accepting that treatments are available for their sexual health problems.

Increasing treatment availability 

Capogrosso clarified that the figures do not indicate any change in the prevalence of these conditions. Instead, what they show is simply what men are concerned about, and possibly reflects the availability of treatments: “As treatments for sexual conditions have become available over the last few years, men are less likely to suffer in silence,” he said, further commenting that more inclusive studies into the topic are needed.

"Nevertheless, there seems to be a growing awareness of conditions such as Peyronie's disease, with articles appearing in the popular press. In addition, we know that the awareness of this condition is increasing in the USA and elsewhere, so this may be a general trend,” concluded Capogrosso.

What is Peyronie's disease?

Peyronie’s disease is a form of erectile dysfunction. According to the Urology Care Foundation, parts of flat scar tissue, known as plaques, form under the skin of the penis. These plaques can cause the penis to bend or become indented during erections. Unfortunately these plaques can often be painful.

Minor injury to the penis or vigorous sex are some of the causes of the disease. The foundation notes the following as symptoms of the disease:

  • Bent/curved penis lumps in the penis
  • Painful erections
  • Soft erections
  • Trouble with sex because of a bent/curved penis

Peyronie’s disease is thought to occur in about six percent of men between the ages of 40 and 70. Although the condition is rare in young men, the foundation notes that there have been cases of men in their thirties living with it. An important consideration is that the estimated numbers may be skewed due to many men being too embarrassed to seek help through their healthcare provider.

The good news is that the disease may go away without treatment, although this number is quite low – about 13 out of 100 men. However, there are several successful treatment options, including oral drugs, injections, and in some cases, surgery.

Fortunately, in men with small plaques who do not experience a high level of curving of the penis, as well as no pain and problems with sex, may not require treatment.

If you think you may be suffering from Peyronie’s disease, please contact your healthcare provider immediately.

READ | Why is my penis skew?

READ | Is there any medical or natural treatment for Peyronie's disease in South Africa?

READ | Erectile dysfunction may up the odds for irregular heartbeat

Image: Ana Gassent/Getty

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