The pathophysiology of lifelong premature ejaculation
For many decades it has been thought that lifelong premature ejaculation (PE) is only characterized by persistant early ejaculations. Despite enormous progress of in vivo animal research, and neurobiological, genetic and pharmacological research in men with lifelong PE, our current understanding of the mechanisms behind early ejaculations is far from complete. The new classification of PE into four PE subtypes has shown that the symptomatology of lifelong PE strongly differs from acquired PE, subjective PE and variable PE. The phenotype of lifelong PE and therefore also the pathophysiology of lifelong PE is much more complex. A substantial number of men with lifelong PE not only have PE, but also premature erection and premature penile detumescence as part of an acute hypertonic or hypererotic state when engaged in an erotic situation or when making love. As both erectio praecox, ejaculatio praecox, detumescentia praecox, and the hypererotic state are part of the phenotype lifelong PE, it is argued that lifelong PE is not only a disturbance of the timing of ejaculation but also a disturbance of the timing of erection, detumescence and arousal. Since 1998, the pathophysiology of lifelong PE was thought to be mainly mediated by the central serotonergic system in line with genetic polymorphisms of specific serotonergic genes. However, by accepting that lifelong PE is characterized by the reversible hypertonic state the hypothesis of mainly serotonergic dysfunction is no longer tenable. Instead, it has been postulated that the pathophysiology of lifelong PE is mediated by a very complex interplay of central and peripheral serotonergic, dopaminergic, oxytocinergic, endocrinological, genetic and probably also epigenetic factors. Progress in research of lifelong PE can only be accomplished when a stopwatch is used to measure the IELT and the cut-off point of 1 minute for the definition of lifelong PE is maintained. Current use of validated questionnaires, neglect of stopwatch research, clinically inexperienced investigators and inclusion of anonymous men in a study performed by the Internet endanger the continuation of objective research of lifelong PE.