Erectile dysfunction (ED) occurs when someone with a penis can't hold an erection long enough for sex. ED also occurs when the penis is not erect enough to have sex. People with ED may also develop a lower sex drive in general.
In addition to these physical issues, ED can also lead to a lack of confidence and issues in a relationship.
Sometimes, ED is a symptom of another, separate health problem. These include:
- Low testosterone
- Heart disease
- Parkinson's disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Sleep disorders
- Metabolic syndrome
- Peyronie's disease
ED can also be a side effect of:
- Certain prescription medications
- Tobacco use
- Treatment for prostate cancer and enlarged prostate
- Pelvic surgery
Erections are a result of multiple parts of the body and processes working together. A dysfunction with any of these systems can cause erectile dysfunction. These system and processes include:
Remedies and Treatments for Erectile Dysfunction
If you find yourself struggling with ED, here are some treatments and exercises you can try to mitigate the effects.
Penis pumps are a medical device that helps your penis to achieve an erection. Once it is hard, you can use a "tension ring" more commonly known as a cock ring, to maintain that erection for a longer amount of time.
Doctors can prescribe penis pumps, but you can also get them without a prescription online and at novelty stores.
Penis pumps work by pulling blood into your penis. The tension ring keeps the blood there typically long enough to have sex.
This device may cause minor bruising and difficulty with ejaculation. It is normal for your penis to feel cold to the touch when using a penis pump or wearing a tension ring.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
Studies show that strengthening your pelvic floor muscles may lessen symptoms of ED. One study asked 55 men who had experienced ED for over six months to perform these exercises. 40% of the men reported that they had regained the ability to achieve and maintain an erection.
To perform these exercises, first, identify the muscles by squeezing the way you would if you were trying to stop yourself from going to the bathroom. You may feel your penis or testicles raise up. Then, pulse these muscles. You can either hold them tightly squeezed for intervals of 10 seconds or pulse them more quickly for one second at a time.
Smoking is one of the factors that can cause ED. Some studies show that men who smoke at least a pack of cigarettes a day are 40% more likely to develop ED than those who do not smoke.
Cutting down your cigarette smoking, or quitting altogether, may reduce the risk of ED. Studies also suggest that quitting smoking can help improve symptoms for men who already have ED.
There are several supplements you can try that may help with ED.
- Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA): This adrenal hormone helps your body to regulate other hormones, including estrogen and testosterone. Early studies show that eight weeks of supplementation may result in improved erections. However, more research must be done in order to determine the efficacy of DHEA for ED.
- L-Arginine: Studies show that this amino acid works best when taken in combination with prescription medication for ED. In one study, taking the two together proved more effective than taking either one on its own.
- Ginseng: Preliminary research shows that this root may improve ED. However, more research is needed to verify this hypothesis.
- Horny Goat Weed: This herb is often marketed for ED. However, it has not been studied in humans and may cause negative side effects like heart or breathing problems.
When to See a Doctor
Visit your doctor if you find ED distressing. You may also need to visit your doctor if you have ED and would like to try to get your partner pregnant.
If you have an underlying health condition, or other symptoms along with your ED, see your doctor.
You may want to begin by seeing your family doctor. They may refer you to a urologist or another specialist who can help.
Doctors may suggest any of the following to help with ED:
- Prescription medication to help maintain erections
- Hormonal treatments
- Penile implant surgery