Although many men suffer from erectile dysfunction, it remains a condition that is difficult to discuss with partners and healthcare professionals.
Erectile dysfunction is a condition that surfaces when a man is not able to achieve a stiff erection of the penis, making it incapable of penetrating a vagina during intercourse. It may also surface as the inability to maintain an erection once the penis becomes engorged.
There are treatments available from health care professionals to treat erectile dysfunction, which sometimes is evidence of a more serious underlying health condition. But you should consider all options before identifying a treatment that is right for you.
Treating ED without drugs or other medical interventions
One of the first things your medical professional likely will do is recommend lifestyle changes to help reduce or eliminate erectile dysfunction problems. Your healthcare provider can offer support to make these lifestyle changes. Among the recommendations for lifestyle changes are:
- Stop smoking
- Stop or limit drinking alcohol
- Start or increase physical activity
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Stop recreational and illegal drug use
It’s possible that ED is caused by a medicine taken for another health condition. In that case, your doctor can prescribe a different dose or alternative medicine. But you should never stop taking medication that may cause ED without discussing it with a physician.
It’s also possible that erectile dysfunction can occur in response to psychological or emotional issues. In those cases, a medical professional might recommend counseling, which can offer ways to treat the underlying issues causing ED, like anxiety, stress, and depression. In some cases, the anxiety and stress may be related to your sex life, so a counselor may ask to see you with your partner to discuss your sex life. It is also important that a partner learns how to support a man suffering from ED caused by psychological or emotional issues.
Treating ED with oral medication
A common treatment for erectile dysfunction is oral medications. A medical professional may prescribe these medicines to be taken by mouth to help achieve and maintain a full erection. These medications include:
- Sildenafil, also known as Viagra
- Vardenafil, also known as Levitra, Staxyn
- Tadalafil, also known as Cialis
- Avanafil, also known as Stendra
Cialis, like all of these other medicines, work by relaxing smooth muscles and increasing blood flow in the penis during sexual stimulation. This can cause an erection. Cialis and Viagra are known as phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitors. Similar to other PDE5 inhibitors, research has shown that Cialis can open up blood vessels to help blood flow easier. As a result, it can potentially lower blood pressure, but this is usually temporary and won’t cause other health issues.
Treating ED with a vacuum device
Some erectile dysfunction can be reduced through the use of a vacuum device, which causes an erection by pulling blood into the penis. The device has three parts:
- Plastic tube used to insert the penis into and create suction
- Pump to draw air out of the plastic tube, creating a vacuum
- Elastic ring, moved from the end of the plastic tube to the engorged penis in the vacuum to maintain an erection
Once the penis is erect, the elastic ring is moved onto the base of the erect penis to prevent blood from flowing back into the body. The elastic ring can stay on the hard penis for up to 30 minutes and should be removed after that time to resume normal circulation of blood through the body and to reduce skin irritation.
It may take practice learning how to properly use the vacuum device and how to adjust to the elastic ring around the penis. These devices can produce temporary discoloration of the penis and bruising.
Treating ED with injectable medicines and suppositories
Another popular treatment for erectile dysfunction is an injectable medication known as alprostadil.
This medicine is injected right into the shaft of the penis, causing it to fill with blood and to become erect. These erections can be very firm and last for more than a half hour or an hour, in some cases longer.
Another ED treatment is a suppository of alprostadil into the urethra, where the medicine dissolves and produces a solid erection that can last up to an hour.
Are there side effects to erectile dysfunction treatment?
There can be side effects of the treatments used to treat erectile dysfunction. Oral medications can cause headaches and palpitations. Injections can cause a long-lasting erection known as priapism, which is painful and can cause long-term tissue and vein damage in the penis. Some men have experienced vision or hearing loss after taking oral medications. You should discuss all possible side effects of any ED treatment you consider and any side effects you suffer.
If treatments do not address your ED, surgery is an option
If no treatments help address ED, surgery is considered a last resort. Consult with a urologist to discuss surgical options that can:
- Implant a pump that can make the penis erect
- Reconstruct arteries that can increase blood flow to the penis for an erection
Implanted devices, known as prostheses or a penis implant, can help many men with ED have an erection. Implants are typically placed by a urologist and can be either inflatable or malleable. An inflatable implant makes the penis erect by using a pump in the scrotum that inflates two rods on either side of the shaft. A malleable implant allows manual adjustment of the penis’ position through rods placed on either side of the shaft.
The two types of implants can lead to possible infection or may break during use. Both implants must be used in order to produce an erection in the penis.
A urologist also can perform surgery to repair penile arteries and reverse ED caused by blockages that stop blood flow. This type of penile surgery typically works best in men younger than 30 with ED.