If you’ve ever experienced erectile dysfunction, you’re not alone. In fact, an estimated 15-30 million Americans are affected by the problem.
There are lots of possible explanations for erectile dysfunction, including blood pressure medications, extra body weight, and stress. Now, a study published this week in PNAS found another reason some men suffer from the condition: a specific DNA variation.
Researchers from health insurance and medical care company Kaiser Permanente studied the genes of nearly 37,000 Americans who volunteered their medical records for the study. Guys completed sexual health surveys, and the team looked at whether participants were diagnosed with erectile dysfunction or received treatment for the condition.
They found that guys with a variation on their sixth chromosome, found near the SIM1 gene, had a 26 per cent increased risk of ED. Researchers ruled out other known risk factors of ED, like excess body weight, as the cause for the problem.
Although researchers have long suspected that erectile dysfunction may be partially caused by genetics, this study pinpoints the exact location, or locus, that may cause the problem. The genetic variation is located near the SIM1 gene, which helps regulate body weight and erections. This new knowledge may help researchers develop better erectile dysfunction treatments that target genetics.
“Identifying this SIM1 locus as a risk factor for erectile dysfunction is a big deal because it provides the long sought-after proof that there is a genetic component to the disease,” lead study author, Eric Jorgenson, PhD and research scientist at Kaiser Permanente Northern California’s Division of Research, said in a statement. “Identifying the first genetic risk factor for erectile dysfunction is an exciting discovery because it opens the door for investigations into new, genetic-based therapies.”
Jorgenson explained to MensHealth.com that roughly 50 per cent of men don’t respond to current erectile dysfunction medications. If men have ED due to low testosterone, drugs like Viagra may not work, BBC reported. Some men choose not to take medications due to side effects like severe headaches. An alternative genetics-based treatment could drastically improve the lives of millions of men.
Currently, guys with erectile dysfunction may want to consider adopting healthier habits, as excess body weight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can make the condition worse. And remember, it’s best to talk to your doctor before purchasing ED medications or other treatments online.
By Melissa Matthews