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Erectile dysfunction, defined as “the inability to develop and maintain an erection for satisfactory sexual intercourse or activity”, is thought to affect up to half of all men to varying degrees. Erectile dysfunction is often the first sign of an underlying disease, usually cardiovascular or diabetes, and it is recommended that all men over the age of 25 be asked about their erectile function and referred onwards in case of problems. Erectile dysfunction is associated with depression and low levels of self-esteem, both of which have been shown to improve with amelioration of the condition. From the Chinese medicine perspective, the presence of erectile dysfunction can reveal deficiency and disharmony of the zangfu and the presence of pathogenic factors. Acupuncture offers potential in the treatment of erectile dysfunction, especially in men unwilling to take medication, or for whom such medication is not effective or has untoward side-effects. Furthermore, acupuncture is qualitatively different from medication in that it seeks to modify the root of the disorder rather than simply treat the manifestation.
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