Spanish researchers have uncovered clear links between erectile dysfunction (ED) and peripheral neuropathy, according to a paper in the December issue of the urology journal BJUI.
"Up to now the impact of damaged nerves in the peripheral nervous system on ED has been underestimated" says lead author Dr Consuelo Valles-Antuña, from the Department of Neurophysiology at the Hospital Universitario Central de Asturias in Oviedo.
"However our study of 90 patients shows that men with more severe symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, which can be caused by disease, trauma or illness, had greater self-reported ED and required more aggressive treatment.
"Our findings underline the importance of clinicians carrying out neurophysiological tests on patients with ED, particularly in the pelvic area."
The research team, which included experts on both neurophysiology and urology, studied 90 consecutive patients with sexual problems recruited from the hospital's Department of Andrology.
ED was diagnosed using the five-item version of the International Index of Erectile Dysfunction (IIEF-5) and the occurrence of peripheral neuropathy was predicted using the Neuropathy Symptom Score.
A range of neurophysiology tests were carried out to assess the presence of large and small fibreperipheral neuropathy.
The researchers found that:
"To our knowledge, this is the first study to assess the whole peripheral nerve fibre spectrum in a non-selected group of patients with erectile dysfunction" says Dr Valles-Antuña.
"By combining feedback from patients with a series of neurophysiological tests we have been able to demonstrate that peripheral neuropathy is highly prevalent in patients with ED.
"However, we found that the IIEF-5 scores and Neuropathy Symptom Scores were not reliable tools for detecting neurological alterations in patients with ED.
"Our findings suggest that clinicians should carry out neurophysiological tests on patients with ED, paying particular attention to the pelvic area."
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