Erectile dysfunction can be a warning sign for this
Steve Pliszka was in his mid-40s when a cardiology exam uncovered a blockage in his heart. As he recovered from the blockage procedure, he started experiencing another problem — erectile disfunction.
That’s when he turned to the experts at the Men’s Health Clinic at Aurora Health Center in Pleasant Prairie, WI. Under the care of Dr. H. Merrill Matschke, Pliszka learned that ED in men younger than 50 is often connected to heart disease. In fact, the younger you are, the more likely it signals a heart disease risk.
“Erectile dysfunction, low testosterone and infertility can all be indicators of greater health risks,’ says Dr. Matschke. “When the patient is young, and there’s no clear cause such as trauma, it’s a good idea to screen for heart disease before starting any treatment. In this case, the patient was surprised to learn the two issues were linked.”
Just how are they linked? In the past, medical experts believed it was an issue of blood flow; that plaque buildup in the arteries (atherosclerosis) reduces blood flow in the penis.
A more current understanding is that the connection is likely due to dysfunction of the inner lining (endothelium) and smooth muscle of the blood vessels. This is called endothelial dysfunction and is the main culprit that leads to narrowing of arteries to the heart as well as damage to the vascular hydraulics of the penis.
“When a patient comes to me for ED or a fertility issue, it’s like a canary in the coal mine. I know he could be a cardiac patient,” Dr. Matschke says. To make his point, Dr. Matschke uses the mnemonic device: “ED = ED = ED”—which translates as “endothelial dysfunction equals erectile dysfunction equals early death.”
Understanding the underlying issues of ED and its connection to heart conditions also influences treatment decisions. “In this case we opted for regenerative therapy through Low Intensity Shock Wave Therapy (LISWT, rather than the pharmaceutical treatment,” Dr. Matschke says.
With LIWST, the shockwave harnesses the body’s own healing pathways by releasing vascular, nerve and stem cell growth factors to heal the damaged tissue in the erectile cylinders of the penis.
“It’s a reasonable part of an integrated treatment approach for the right patient,” he says. “It’s low to zero risk, and, as in this case, was successful with no long-term medication required.”
Pliszka continues to work with Dr. Matschke and his primary care provider for a comprehensive view of his health, and a goal of minimizing cardio risk, no matter what other health issues arise.
“Steve’s commitment to fitness is aligned with my approach to men’s health,” Dr. Matschke says. “At the Men’s Health Center, we offer patients a deeper, wholistic view to help them stay healthy through their lives, rather than treating isolated issues as they come up. In this case, the issues of ED and cardio health were directly related, and we found a solution that kept both conditions in mind.”
About the Author
Annette Guye-Kordus is a public affairs coordinator with Advocate Aurora Health.