James Woledge, owner of Abbeyfields Clinic in Bury St Edmunds, speaks to Adrian Copping on RWS FM about erectile dysfunction, shockwave therapy, and more.

Audio transcript below.


Adrian: RWS FM 103.3, it is Men’s Health Week this week James Woolwich is the clinic owner and an osteopath at Abbeyfields Clinic in Bury St Edmunds and they specialize, well lots of things believe, but they specialize in particular in some men’s health issues. Good morning to you.

James: Good morning Adrian thanks for having me.

Adrian: That’s right, it’s lovely to have you with us. You are I believe the clinic owner and an osteopath at Abbeyfields Clinic here in Bury St Edmunds?

James: That’s right yes.

Adrian: And the reason that we’ve come on the airwaves this morning is that it’s Men’s Health Week.

James: So sexual health for men is definitely one of those things men don’t want to talk about so there’s been lots of press over the last five ten years about checking your testicles and so forth, prostate health, have you got any change in urinary function at night, so people are very keen about those sorts of things but actually when it comes to sexual health in terms of function and quality of life, that still is a moot topic. Things like impotence or what we now call erectile dysfunction can be signs there that your actual overall health is suffering in the first place that you get those symptoms around impotency and erectile dysfunction.

Adrian: Yes one of the things that men are reluctant to talk about is actually sexual problems or issues, so talk us through that a bit.

James: Well the word that, which was the word we used up until about 10 years ago, has now been replaced with something called erectile dysfunction and that that for obvious reasons is a talking point you don’t hear down the pub, because it speaks of men the men’s ability and so forth and I think that’s the key issue with that as far as GPs in particular are keen to see men with this issue, because it speaks to two things: one that when you start to get changes in your ability to push blood flow and to maintain blood flow into your penis which is something just to actually just make a note of because a lot of people get confused and think it’s a muscle or whatever. It’s a chamber full of blood vessels and basically enlarged and that’s what gives you the ability to hold an erection, but those vessels are very specific and they’re closely aligned with how the vessels of your heart are very small and they can withstand very high pressures. Because of that they need to be really healthy so actually one of the first signs that you might be your general health your cardiovascular health is suffering is actually starting to get erection problems.

You may just see it as a problem down there but it probably is a sign that you have underlying health issues that may well affect general cardiovascular health and heart health so GPs are very keen. Our private GP that works here he talks through this all the time, you know the first thing they think of a good GP is let’s have a look at your overall health when you’re having these issues you should be triaged for blood pressure, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, cholesterol issues and so forth and general obesity. It should be a wake-up call that the things are not going well right.

So that’s one thing that men are not communicating that to their GP, and then perhaps things are being missed, and also the fact that it has this huge impact on mental health and their relationships, to happiness and the relationships and so on. These are two things that a lack of communication are going to impact potentially that person on a shelf so it’s really just a window in to seeing what other things that your GP or other people can help with that’s what we’ve started doing here at the practice.

Adrian: Right I think if I’m right that’s not completely unusual as a thing that’s been happening in medicine, and professions tied to medicine and things like that. For many years I think I remember being surprised to discover that when I go to the opticians, I don’t know whether this still happens, but when I go to the opticians one of the things that they can pick up is potentially high cholesterol levels.

James: That’s right yeah and hypertension.

Adrian: Oh right

James: Little vessels in the back of your eye, not too dissimilar to the little vessels that supply the penis in the heart. Britain was the first country to privately allow people to buy Viagra, so now it’s the treatment which everyone knows which is good for that you don’t even need to see your GP, you can go online and you can buy it, so some people argue that’s a good thing and some people would argue that’s not so good because what it’s doing is allowing you to bypass all potential checks that might want to actually see. Whether you’re healthy or not never mind your sexual performance so I think there’s a few people potentially going under the radar that would otherwise just self-medicate and continue along that line but that’s for people higher up than me that have made that decision to allow that to allow that.

Adrian: Okay but there are other treatments that are available?

James: So other treatments, that’s where we come in. People that are not wanting to go to the GP, a big thing of course is not having that time with the GP to go through all these checks. I think another reason for people going under the radar so we usually set them up with our GP here and we can order things like testosterone checks and he runs through blood pressure that sort of stuff to make sure that you know there’s nothing else going on and then we offer this innovative new treatment called Focused Shockwave which improves blood flow to the penis and increases actually your ability to respond to treatments like Viagra so some people have run out of options and they don’t respond to those medications or that it gives them headache side effects, we can actually enhance the health of the vessels in the penis by using shockwave which is six or twelve sessions but it’s really quite effective and that’s what we do as long as they’re safe to be treated that’s why we have a GP working.

Adrian: Is that an invasive thing or?

James: It’s not no, it’s just soundwaves into the tissue so it’s non-invasive. It works through a little applicator that we put onto the penis and it just increases the quality of the blood vessels and it induces new blood vessels to grow into the area which is also obviously useful. More blood, better erections, it really comes down to that and good quality blood flow, so it’s now become commonplace in North America, Europe and in the major cities of the UK and it’s growing at an enormous rate this type of treatment because it’s one thing that actually can permanently increase the health rather than having to rely on medication. But we always make sure they’re triaged first to make sure that they’re a good candidate for those reasons we discussed before, there could be other reasons for their issues or they just need to be checked out by their GP basically to make sure that they’re healthy in other ways.

Adrian: So I was going to say so presumably if you’re picking up our other problems you’re referring them on or at least getting them to self-refer or whatever’s appropriate.

James: Yeah because you know we say look we can treat this but what actually will help the outcome is having your you know lipids dealt with properly by maybe statins getting a blood pressure down will also help so instead of just taking a pill if we can get your general health status better by all of these mechanisms with the help of your GP then it makes our intervention with the focused shockwave much better value for money for you and better health moving forward which is always a good thing.

Adrian: And the overall message I think that I’m picking up from this, or one of the overall messages, that there’s a real link between your physical health and your mental health and you need to pay attention to or look for the signs of both and get help and refer self-refer because is everything self-referred isn’t it, unless you’re going through A&E or something like that when you’ve had an accident then you do actually have to kind of like pick up the telephone and make an appointment or book it online or whatever.

James: They’ve created even more barriers to men opening up about their problems. That’s the reason it’s done is that you have to pick up the phone, speak to someone, make the appointment, it’s very easy to put it off for a day or two. Next thing you know two weeks have passed and you haven’t made the phone call and done anything about it. It’s really important that that issue was talked about men just being really honest about what’s happening and saying that’s not just because I’m getting old it might be because I need actually a good check-up on my blood pressure and everything else. Don’t put it off, preferably don’t just take a pill and hope it all goes away, they should be checked by their GP even before they might decide to take you know pills of their own volition online, which is what you can do but I think it’s always sensible to make sure your health is good.

Adrian: And in terms of if people want to know more there’s things presumably like big NHS kind of websites and things like that, but also you’ve got links into websites yourself and you’ve got your own website is that right?

James: Yeah so we’re www.theabbeyfieldsclinic.co.uk but we’re a member of a nationwide chain called www.edclinics.co.uk that’s plenty of good information on there, particularly on ED Clinics. I mean even if you went on to the sites that sell Viagra and so forth, they all say the same thing which is actually you should have your general health checks as a part of actually suffering with some form of erectile dysfunction, it should be that you check your blood pressure, your cholesterol, those things, and of course not take it too lightly that stress and psychological issues will also impact your sexual performance it’s probably once a month that we get patients ringing up because they’ve heard about us and done the research and I won’t treat them and I will signpost them off to psychosexual counselling. That’s obviously the biggest issue that needs to be dealt with but with men as we said they don’t like to tackle these things necessarily so easily as women and they would rather have a simple fix like my machine or tablets but actually we should all be doing the right job of triaging them off and making sure you get the best help that they need and everyone’s different.

Adrian: So it’s been fascinating to talk about a subject which indeed is not easy to talk about always or indeed easy to listen to, and it’s good to talk not just about mental health issues, because it’s all kind of tied up as you said to us and if there’s anybody that’s been listening that’s worried or concerned about themselves or somebody else that they know very well then the message is you know don’t be shy like have a little bit of courage and go to your GP or look up a clinic, or there’s plenty of help available. James, thank you very much indeed for joining us this morning, we’ve kind of run out of time anyway, James Woledge the clinic owner and osteopath of Abbeyfields Clinic this Men’s Health Week, thanks so much for joining us.

James: Thanks a lot Adrian