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5 October 2001
Impotence And Depression Linked
by George Atkinson

Successful treatment of erectile dysfunction in depressed men can lead to marked improvement in depression, according to a study published in the October 2001 American Journal of Psychiatry, the monthly scientific journal of the American Psychiatric Association.

Depression and erectile dysfunction are highly prevalent and frequently coexisting conditions in middle-aged and elderly men. Erectile problems affect more than 18 million men in the United States alone, according to the American Foundation for Urologic Disease. Erectile dysfunction increases progressively with age and men with cardiovascular risk factors are particularly susceptible.

The study - which found a strong correlation between change in erectile dysfunction and change in depressive symptoms - did not determine whether the depression caused erectile dysfunction, or erectile dysfunction caused the depression.

Researchers, led by Stuart N. Seidman, M.D., of the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University, conducted a 12-week, placebo-controlled trial at 20 urologic clinics to evaluate the effects of sildenafil treatment in men who have erectile dysfunction and mild to moderate depressive illness.

Men who responded to treatment - whether they received sildenafil or placebo - showed a clinically significant improvement in depressive symptoms and quality of life measures, compared with subjects whose erectile dysfunction did not respond to treatment. The study suggests that depression can be a consequence of erectile dysfunction in some men.

Whether improvement in depressive symptoms will be maintained over a longer period of time - or whether symptomatic improvement would occur at all in patients with major depressive disorder - is not known.

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