03/07/2014 13:01 BST | Updated 02/09/2014 06:59 BST

Breaking the Erectile Dysfunction Taboo

Sexual problems like erectile dysfunction often top the list of conditions that people shy away from talking about. But this 'keep quiet, and carry on' tactic means that many are suffering in silence.

Around one in every 10 men has a sex-related problem, such as erectile dysfunction (ED), but it's an issue some find very difficult to discuss with friends, partners or even a doctor.

New research commissioned by the Pharmacy2U Online Doctor service has revealed that the 'embarrassment factor' is putting men off seeking treatment. The findings, published this week, show one in every three (37%) ED sufferers admits they have opted not to seek help, the majority saying it would be too 'embarrassing'.

The downside of keeping quiet

Ignoring erection problems can be incredibly frustrating, both physically and mentally.

It can lead to loss of confidence, stress and relationship troubles. The actual cause of the symptoms may be left undiscovered too.

People are often unaware that ED can be linked to various conditions and for some the reason they are having difficulties achieving or sustaining an erection could be an indication of a potentially serious medical condition.

There are a huge number of things that can cause ED - ranging from low testosterone and other hormonal imbalances, to high cholesterol and even heart disease. It could also have psychological origins, such as anxiety or depression.

However, one of the most common causes is diabetes and it's often advisable for the patient to undergo tests, such as blood sugar.

Men of all ages

Most men may fail to get an erection from time to time - perhaps if they're feeling tired or distracted, but this is usually just temporary. For others though, it can be a persistent problem.

Half of men over 40 are likely to have some erection difficulties, with the problem becoming more prevalent in older men. However, ED is a common condition that can affect men of all ages.

Tackling the problem

For the majority of ED sufferers, medical treatment is extremely effective. There are various prescription medications available to tackle the problem. Viagra is the brand name most people are familiar with, but there are a number of drugs available, including generic versions of the famous 'blue pill'. As with all medications, these prescription-only drugs need to come from a reputable source, as the UK and the internet can be awash with rogue suppliers.

For some, psychotherapy can hold the answer, whereas others try herb-based remedies. Interestingly, our research showed that a third (35 per cent) of 18 to 34s with ED use herbal treatments, such as L-Arginine, Ginseng and Ginkgo.

Making lifestyle choices can often help, such as reducing alcohol intake, stopping smoking and changing eating habits.

What's harder to change is people's reluctance to break the taboo that surrounds ED. Yes, sexual problems can be embarrassing and you may feel like you or your partner are the only ones dealing them, but the odds are some of your closest friends have probably experienced something similar - or could well do in the future.

Facing up to ED makes it easier to seek medical support. So you can tackle the symptoms and check there's not a more sinister root cause.