Understanding Erectile Dysfunction -- Diagnosis and Treatment

What Are the Treatments for Erectile Dysfunction?

If you’re having trouble getting and keeping an erection, you may not have erectile dysfunction (ED). It might be a temporary problem brought on by things like stress, fatigue, or drinking too much alcohol.

Your doctor should be able to clear up the mystery. So go pay a visit.

If it is ED, there are lots of things that can help.

Lifestyle Changes

Your doctor may tell you to make some day-to-day adjustments. Expect to hear things like:

He may also ask you to change some of the medicines you take. Some may affect your interest in sex or your ability to be ready for it.

Medicines

Pills are the most common treatments for ED.

Avanafil (Stendra), sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis) and vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn) will work for most men. You take these medications before sex. When they work, you can get a normal erection when you’re turned on.

Don’t take them if you’re on any kind of nitroglycerin or nitrate drugs. The combination can result in dangerously low blood pressure.

While pills are the most popular treatment, there are others.

Self-injected medications can work. Before sex, you put these into the side of the penis. In the long run, they may also improve blood flow and potency.

Suppositories can be inserted into the opening at the tip of your penis to help you get erections.

Testosterone replacement therapy may help men with low levels of the hormone. These treatments come in shots, patches, gels, and pills.

Devices

Vacuum inflation tools are an option. They draw blood into your penis. You slip a rubber ring over the base to keep your erection. Remove the ring after 30 minutes to restore circulation and prevent damage.

Surgery

If the problem is with your blood vessels, surgery to open arteries that bring blood to the penis may help. Which procedure you’ll need depends on your symptoms. Surgery is not a common treatment option, but it can help if your ED was caused by an injury.

Continued

Penile Implants

While they don’t fix ED long-term, some men choose them. The simplest is a semi-rigid type that creates a permanent erection.

More expensive versions use a pump placed under the skin of your scrotum.

Implants can work. But there is a risk of infection or that the device will fail over time.

Treating Psychological Causes

If your ED is psychological, think about what’s causing stress or tension in your life. A trained therapist can help you figure out what’s going on.

Alternative Therapies

There are other treatments you can explore:

Acupuncture
This ancient Chinese practice involves placing very fine needles at certain spots on your body.

It’s thought to boost your body's ability to heal itself. It has helped some men. But more research is needed to prove it really works.

Aromatherapy
Some scents, like lemon, may help improve your mood. And that may put you in the mood.

Herbs and Supplements
There's little to show that herbs help. If you do try them or supplements, tell your doctor and proceed with caution. Some of the more popular choices include:

  • Ginkgo: It can thin your blood. But there’s no proof it helps you get an erection.
  • Ginseng and saw palmetto: Their claims regarding ED have yet to be proven.
  • Arginine : This amino acid is being studied and shows promise. But more research is needed.
  • Yohimbine: This herb can have serious side effects and is illegal in the U.S.

Herbs can make your medications not work as they should. Talk to your doctor before you start any herbal treatment.

Therapies to Avoid

These can do more harm than good.

  • Cell therapy: Doctors transfer cells from a pig's gonads into humans. It’s unlikely to work. It’s also very costly. Plus it’s illegal in the U.S.
  • Chelation therapy: This chemical purge is believed to improve circulation. There’s no proof it works.
  • Magnetic field therapy: There’s nothing to show that magnets cure ED.

Can I Use Insurance?

Some insurance policies cover ED treatment if it’s medically necessary. Check with your insurance provider.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on October 19, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Montague, D. Journal of Urology, July 2005.

Ginsberg, T. Medical Clinics of North America, September 2006.

Albersen M. Medical Clinics of  North America, January 1, 2011.

Heidelbaugh J. American Family Physician, February 1, 201.

Lee M. BJU International,  August 11, 2009.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: "Aromatherapy May Make Good Scents, But Does It Work?"

Rakel, R. Textbook of Family Medicine, 8th ed, W.B. Saunders Company, 2011.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: "Ginkgo."

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: "Asian Ginseng."

Bope, E, Kellerman, R. Conn's Current Therapy 2012, 1st Edition, Saunders, 2011.

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