Purpose of review
This article summarizes current findings supporting the role of erectile dysfunction as a proxy of general health status, with a focus on the young population.
Erectile dysfunction has been historically associated to increased cardiovascular risk and mortality. Several studies supported the role of erectile dysfunction as a predictive factor of subsequent cardiovascular events, acquiring significant importance even in young men. Similarly, erectile dysfunction emerged as a potential marker for metabolic alterations including diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome, eventually presenting as the initial manifestation of a dysmetabolic condition in young patients. Moreover, current epidemiologic data demonstrated a significant association of erectile dysfunction with several conditions including vascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal disorders, and endocrine with chronic-sustained inflammation representing the common pathophysiological link between erectile dysfunction and comorbidities. Interestingly, longitudinal studies demonstrated a higher risk of overall mortality in patients complaining of erectile dysfunction, even irrespective of cardiovascular risk.
Erectile dysfunction does not represent an uncommon condition among young men. Considering the amount of data demonstrating a strong correlation between several life-risky comorbidities and erectile dysfunction, a careful and comprehensive general health assessment of patients complaining of erectile dysfunction should be carried out, regardless of patient's age. The identification of erectile dysfunction as an early sign of a major comorbidity would allow the implementation of therapeutic measures aimed at improving the overall health status and life expectancy across the entire aging process.