Erectile Dysfunction

To me, understanding the difference between health and illness almost requires knowledge of bothl. Health could be defined as the lack of illness/disease, and illness could be defined as being less than healthy. Health is the ability for a body to operate ‘normally’ and efficiently to sustain life, while also allowing for normal activities and reproduction. Health should not just refer to sustained life, but also the continuation of it. Illness, however, is when something disrupts normal health and physiology, resulting in a pathophysiological response in the body and signs and symptoms that are otherwise absent in a healthy individual. These definitions are determined by what is scientifically accepted in America and by accepted scientific theories.

My ideas of health and illness are heavily influenced by the society I live in, the ‘health culture’ that surrounds me, and the formal education I have received. Coming from a biomedical culture, my perceptions of the body and disease are dictated by biology (and other fields of science), normal versus abnormal, and some spiritual undertones. Most of what I believe in has been studied and proven to be effective in most cases by scientists who utilize the scientific method to find solutions. They establish a ‘normal’ individual, then assess the ‘abnormal’, or whoever falls out of normal range. Using this, they can create a treatment that will return the individual to normalcy. While widely accepted, this method has many flaws. My nursing education has given me some insight into diagnosis and the science behind America’s health system, but my anthropology background also supplies me with an understanding that health is just as subjective as other facets of culture and society.

I have chosen to evaluate erectile dysfunction and the flu. Both I consider to be an illness because they result in cellular death, a pathophysiological reaction within the body, or visible signs and symptoms within the patient. By forcing the patient into the ‘abnormal’ category, they either result in cellular death within the host, or lack of ability to sustain life. Health is often diagnosed when referring to only the person directly affected, but should actually involve looking at the effect on others as well. While ED may not be the most debilitating illness, without a functioning erection (in most cases), males cannot fertilize an ovum to carry on the human population. If this were to affect everyone, the human race could die out! Meanwhile, the flu enters the body and infects cells, leading to cellular death. Both cause a compromise of the normal physiological processes that are necessary to sustain life, and thus falling into the definition of a disease.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Thuy-Tien Giap says:

    Hi Peter,
    What you have is great, but perhaps you changed your mind about the topic you want to write about after the title. Your title is Anxiety, but your conditions are Flu and Cancer. =) Just giving you a heads up

  2. Alexis Snyder says:

    After doing a little research, I came across an interesting article that analyzed the concept of Erectile Dysfunction from the perspective of Malay, Chinese and Indian men. Malay men had an accurate description of ED, stating it was an inability to get an erection, there was a reduction of sexual craving and a lower endurance. The Chinese believe that men who suffer from ED are those who have low confidence or are psychologically ill. Indian culture may the most interesting take on ED. They have described men with ED as being homosexual or having an issue with premature ejaculation. Overall, these cultures perceive men with ED as less of a man, hopeless and worthless.
    Some of their treatments were also very interesting. In Malay culture, squirrel semen found on leaves are gathered and put all over the body of the afflicted as a remedy. Also leftover tiger ejaculation is believed to cause growth of fungus. That fungus is collected, mixed with water and applied to the penis. Amongst all the men, cleanliness was believed to help with erectile dysfunction. By either cleaning up oneself, one’s home and even asking one’s wife to “beautify” herself were believed to help. More interestingly, many of the men have heard about Viagra but were not clear about its effects and appropriate uses.
    Low, W Y. “Malaysian Cultural Differences in Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices Related to Erectile Dysfunction: Focus Group Discussions.” International Journal of Impotence Research 14 (2002): 440-45.

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