There are a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding erectile dysfunction (ED). This is the medical term for the inability to get or keep an erection, and it affects almost all men at some point in their lives. However, it’s understandably not a topic that men are always keen to discuss.
This can lead to a lot of misunderstanding about what causes the condition and how to treat it. For example, it’s commonly believed that it is the inevitable consequence of ageing, which is not true. The problem does become more common in older men, but this is often related to other conditions such as high blood pressure or heart disease.
Another common myth is that ED is ‘all in the mind’ or it’s a sign that you are no longer attracted to your partner. ED can be caused by psychological or emotional issues, particularly in men under the age of 40. However, in men who are middle-aged or older, ED is much more likely to be caused by an underlying health condition.
Most damaging of all, there are all kinds of spurious ‘treatments’ or more accurately quack cures that are taken seriously by some men. Generally, any kind of rumour about drinking a marinade of papaya and garlic or sprinkling herbal powders into your tea should be treated with scepticism.
Most of these types of claims are not backed by scientific research or proven clinical trials. There are safe and effective treatments that are approved by the world’s most respected medical regulators. These include tablets that can be taken orally and a substance that can be applied directly to the penis called Eroxon Stimgel.
A recent report in The Mirror may raise a few eyebrows, however. Apparently, scientists in Brazil are investigating whether the highly toxic venom of the Brazilian Wandering Spider could be a cure for ED. The spiders, also known as banana spiders, belong to the genus Phoneutria, which means ‘murderess’ in Greek.
Totally bananas or a cause for hope for millions of men? The spiders are some of the most dangerous in the world, and one bite can cause high blood pressure, convulsions, cramps, and a prolonged and painful erection. It is this last symptom that interests researchers, and they have identified a non-toxic molecule that has been tested on animals.
Maria Elena de Lima, a professor of biomedicine and medicine at the Santa Casa Belo Horizonte hospital in Brazil, said in a statement: “We synthesised this molecule and began testing it on mice and rats, to check whether it would have the same effect as the original molecule, that is, the spider toxin.”
“After in vitro tests, that is, in the corpus cavernosum isolated from mice, as well as in anaesthetised animals, we observed that this molecule, much smaller and non-toxic, caused erections in these animals.”
Tests on humans are entering stage two of clinical trials to determine if the molecule could be used as a safe treatment for ED. However, it is likely that it will be many years, if at all, that any such product is approved for widespread use by medical regulators.