Premature ejaculation (PE), also known as, rapid ejaculation, rapid climax, premature climax or early ejaculation, is the most common sexual problem in men, affecting 25%-40% of men. It is characterized by a lack of voluntary control over ejaculation. Masters and Johnson stated that a man suffers from premature ejaculation if he ejaculates before his sex partner achieves orgasm in more than fifty percent of their sexual encounters. Other sex researchers have defined premature ejaculation as occurring if the man ejaculates within two minutes of penetration; however, a survey by Alfred Kinsey in the 1950s demonstrated that three quarters of men ejaculate within two minutes of penetration in over half of their sexual encounters. Today, most sex therapists understand premature ejaculation as occurring when a lack of ejaculatory control interferes with sexual or emotional well-being in one or both partners.
Most men experience premature ejaculation at least once in their lives. Often adolescents and young men experience premature ejaculation during their first sexual encounters, but eventually learn ejaculatory control. Because there is great variability in both how long it takes men to ejaculate and how long both partners want sex to last, researchers have begun to form a quantitative definition of premature ejaculation. Current evidence supports an average intravaginal ejaculation latency time (IELT) of six and a half minutes in 18-30 year olds. If the disorder is defined as an IELT percentile below 2.5, then premature ejaculation could be suggested by an IELT of less than about one and a half minutes. Nevertheless, it is well accepted that men with IELTs below 1.5 minutes could be "happy" with their performance and do not report a lack of control and therefore do not suffer from PE. On the other hand, a man with 2 minutes IELT could present with perception of poor control over his ejaculation, distressed about his condition, has interpersonal difficulties and therefore be diagnosed with PE.
Psychological factors commonly contribute to premature ejaculation. While men sometimes underestimate the relationship between sexual performance and emotional well-being, premature ejaculation can be caused by temporary depression, stress over financial matters, unrealistic expectations about performance, a history of sexual repression, or an overall lack of confidence. Interpersonal dynamics strongly contribute to sexual function, and premature ejaculation can be caused by a lack of communication between partners, hurt feelings, or unresolved conflicts that interfere with the ability to achieve emotional intimacy. Neurological premature ejaculation can also lead to other forms of sexual dysfunction, or intensify the existing problem, by creating performance anxiety. In a less pathological context, premature ejaculation could also be simply caused by extreme arousal.
Recent research has also investigated the role of factors involving the female partner. One study of young married couples (Tullberg, 1999) reported that the husband's IELT seems to be affected by the phases of the wife's menstrual cycle, the IELT tending to be shortest during the fertile phase. Other studies suggest that young men with older female partners reach the ejaculatory threshold sooner, on average, than those whose partners are their own age or younger .
The physical process of ejaculation requires two sequential actions: emission and expulsion. The emission phase is the first one to happen and it involves deposition of seminal fluid from ampullary vasa deferens, seminal vesicles & prostate gland into posterior urethra. Second phase is the expulsion of semen which involves closure of bladder neck followed by the rhythmic contractions of urethra by pelvic-perineal and bulbospongiosus muscle and intermittent relaxation of external Sphincter urethrae. Today it is believed that the neurotransmitor serotonin (5HT) has a central role in modulating ejaculation. Several animal studies have demonstrated its inhibitory effect on ejaculation modulated through the PGI system in the brain. Therefore, it is perceived that low level of serotonin in the synaptic cleft in these specific areas in the brain could cause premature ejaculation. This theory is further supported by the proven effectiveness of SSRIs, which increase serotonin level in the synapse, in treating PE.
Sympathetic motor neurons control the emission phase of ejaculation reflex and expulsion phase is executed by somatic and autonomic motor neurons. These motor neurons are located in the thoracolumbar and lumbosacral spinal cord and are activated in a coordinated manner when sufficient sensory input to reach the ejaculatory threshold has entered the central nervous system.
Several areas in the brain, and especially the nucleus paragigantocellularis, have been identified to be involved in ejaculatory control. Scientists have long suspected a genetic link to certain forms of premature ejaculation. In one study, ninety-one percent of men who suffered from lifelong premature ejaculation also had a first-relative with lifelong premature ejaculation. Other researchers have noted that men who suffer from premature ejaculation have a faster neurological response in the pelvic muscles. Simple exercises commonly suggested by sex therapists can significantly improve ejaculatory control for men with premature ejaculation caused by neurological factors. Often, these men may benefit from anti-anxiety medication or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as sertraline or paroxetine, as these slow down ejaculation times. Some men prefer using anaesthetic creams, however, these creams may also deaden sensations in the man's partner, and are not generally recommended by sex therapists.
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