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13 August 2007
Erections: Use 'Em Or Lose 'Em
by George Atkinson

After prostate removal (radical prostatectomy), it can take up to two years for the genital nerves to recover enough for a man to have an erection, but by that time, other damage may have occurred, says a new study. In Perspectives on Prostate Disease, Harvard researchers note that when the penis is flaccid for long periods of time, it is deprived of oxygen-rich blood and recent research suggests that this low oxygen level causes some muscle cells in the penis's erectile tissue to lose their flexibility. The tissue gradually becomes more like scar tissue, interfering with the penis's ability to expand when it is filled with blood.

The new findings indicate that the traditional advice given to men to wait for erectile function to return on its own may not be adequate. Rather, the researchers contend that erections seem to work on a use-it-or-lose-it basis. To prevent the secondary damage that can occur if the penis goes too long without being erect, they now think it's better to restore erectile function sooner, rather than later, after prostate removal. The treatment options to facilitate this include using a vacuum pump device or taking erectile dysfunction drugs.

"Although the evidence supporting this 'penile rehabilitation' isn't perfect, such early intervention may help increase the odds that [men] will regain erectile function," said Harvard oncologist Dr. Marc Garnick, who urged men to discuss erectile function issues with their doctor.

Related articles:
Sex Life A Major Concern After Prostate Cancer
Couch Potatoes Risk Dead-Dick Syndrome
Penile Implants The "Forgotten" Solution For Erectile Dysfunction

Source: Harvard Health Publications

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