The number of men diagnosed with erectile dysfunction has skyrocketed since the little blue pill made it possible to talk about them. Fortunately, the number of erectile dysfunction treatment options has also increased. So which ones are worth trying and which ones are just hype?
In the 14 years or so since Viagra was introduced in 1998, the number of men diagnosed with erectile dysfunction (ED) has increased by 250 percent. Men are increasingly realizing that they are not alone and that they have a choice. In addition to pills such as Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis, there are surgical, therapeutic, and even self-help treatments that can bring back this feeling of love. “Some older treatments for ED are being used more often than ever, especially for men who cannot take pills,” says Michael Feloni, MD, a urologist at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. Read on to find out about common erectile dysfunction remedies and the truth about which ones fit the hype and which don’t.
Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis
For many of the 30 million Americans with erectile dysfunction, Levitra, Viagra, and Cialis are the 1st line of treatment for erectile dysfunction. They are effective in about 80% of men. These drugs, called phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors, are permitted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and work by increasing blood flow for an erection. Common side effects include nasal cramping and headache. Note: If you are taking nitroglycerin tablets for heart disease, you will not be able to take ED tablets as they can cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure.
Alprostadil is an FDA-approved erectile dysfunction drug injected directly into the penis to induce automatic erections. “Penile injection is the most effective treatment for ED for men who cannot take oral medications,” says Nelson Bennett, MD, a urologist at the Lahi Clinic in Burlington, Massachusetts. It has an 85% success rate. Possible side effects contain a burning sensation and priapism, an erection that lasts more than four hours and needs treatment.
Can’t or don’t want to take ED medications? According to Dr. Bennett, the vacuum pump method is the next most common choice among men with erectile dysfunction who take the pill. To create an erection, you place a plastic cylinder on the penis and pump air out of the cylinder to force blood to flow into the penis. The erection is held in place by an elastic ring that you put on the penis base. This ED device is effective in about 75 percent of men. Side effects include paralysis, bruising, and poor ejaculation – the ring must be dismissed after 30 minutes.
If you have a neurological disorder or spinal cord injury and other erectile dysfunction treatments have failed, two types of surgical implants may offer solutions for your ED. “An implantable pump can be used to manually produce an erection by pumping fluid into cylinders placed inside the penis,” explains Feloni. “Another option is a flexible prosthesis that acts like a gooseneck lamp, supervising the penis into a place for intercourse.” Risks to these treatments for ED involve infection and mechanical failure.
“Medicines that create blood flow to the penis cannot help when an erection is blocked by fear or anxiety caused by a fight-or-flight response,” Feloni says. – This type of erectile dysfunction perhaps has a lot to do with evolution. “Men didn’t necessarily need an erection when a dragon was hunting them.” The best treatment for erectile dysfunction induced by recital anxiety, sadness, poor relations, or stress may be combined with ED medication and sex therapy, one-on-one therapy, or couples therapy from sexual health professionals.
Herbal supplements such as ginkgo Biloba, saw palmetto juice, and Yohimbe have been touted as sex enhancers, and some men have been tempted to try them for erectile dysfunction. However, Bennett warns that none of them have been approved by the FDA or even demonstrated by any reliable research to prevent, treat, or improve erectile dysfunction. What’s more, supplements are not regulated and can have many side effects or interfere with the prescription of medications you are already taking. Do not put your health at risk by taking erectile dysfunction supplements without first talking to your doctor.
Male Hormone Therapy
Commercials for drugs to improve “low testosterone” or the male hormone testosterone are currently vying for airtime, but they aim not to perform. “The male hormone is not permitted for the therapy of erectile dysfunction,” notes Bennett. “It can be used to develop craving in men with low testosterone, but it does not increase blood stream to erection.” Your doctor may do a blood test to monitor for low testosterone levels, but this is a rare cause of ED. Hormone therapy with injections, patches, or gels useful to the skin can improve mood and sex drive, but most likely won’t resolve any mechanical problems. Also, men with prostate cancer should not take testosterone medications. Side effects include acne, breast enlargement, and enlarged prostate and fluid retention.
Shock Wave Therapy
The idea of using low-energy shock waves to treat erectile dysfunction comes from research that shows that these types of shock help renew the growth of the heart’s blood vessels, a process called revascularization. Shockwave therapy can also affect the penis, and there have been some promising results, but it is currently not an approved treatment for ED. “This is similar to the type of shock waves used to break up kidney stones, and it can reason revascularization,” Bennett says. “However, there are no good precise studies yet to endorse it to patients.”