If you experience erectile dysfunction, you are not alone! More than 18 million men over the age of 20 are affected by erectile dysfunction. You may also be shocked to learn that, according to the Sexual Advice Association, approximately half of men ages 40 to 70 years have ED to some degree.
Though erectile dysfunction is incredibly common, many who have it are too embarrassed to seek help. As a result, sexual satisfaction plummets and any underlying health problems that contribute to ED continue to progress.
Erectile dysfunction has many potential causes, but most of them are treatable. Psychological causes for ED can be treated with psychotherapy and various non-medical treatments while physical causes for ED can be treated with drugs, surgery, or medical devices.
If you suffer from erectile dysfunction, take heart in knowing that there are plenty of treatments available to you – all you have to do is step up and talk to your doctor about the options. Keep reading to learn more about treatments for erectile dysfunction.
We mention this treatment first because many cases of erectile dysfunction are psychological rather than physical. Though it is common for both to come into play, psychological factors cause approximately 10% to 20% of erectile dysfunction cases. Sometimes it’s true what they say – that it’s all in your head.
Many men baulk at the word "therapy" but seeking help is nothing to be ashamed of.
Going to a therapist doesn’t necessarily mean talking about your deepest, darkest secrets and listening to a professional tell you how to solve your problems. Rather, psychotherapy (or talk therapy) involves exploring the mental and emotional factors that contribute to your ED and learning to change those negative patterns of thought.
Not only should you consider psychotherapy for yourself, but you may want to consider couples therapy. With the guidance of a professional therapist, you and your partner can learn to communicate better about your sexual preferences and relationship concerns. Many couples find that joint therapy sessions enable them to speak more freely than they otherwise would and it results in a deeper, more trusting relationship which ultimately leads to a more satisfying sex life for both parties.
Also known as the "little blue pill," Viagra is the most commonly prescribed erectile dysfunction drug, though there are two others approved by the FDA. Sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil, and tadalafil are the most common ED drugs and they belong to a class of drugs known as phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) inhibitors which improve blood flow to the penis.
Oral erectile dysfunction treatments should be taken about an hour before anticipated sexual activity for the best results, though their effects can last up to 4 hours. These drugs are available in different doses, typically 10mg, 25mg, 50mg, and 100 mg, and recommended doses vary from one drug to another.
Like all prescription medications, ED drugs have the potential to cause side effects. As many as 12% to 16% of users report headache, flushing, or low blood pressure. Nasal congestion occurs in 2% to 4% of cases and nausea or other gastrointestinal problems in 5% to 7% of users.
Though oral erectile dysfunction medications are one of the most popular treatments, there are other ways to take ED drugs. For example, prostaglandin E1 (PGE1), also known as Alprostadil, is a drug that promotes relaxation of the smooth muscles in the penis to enable an erection. This drug can be delivered directly to the erectile tissue via intraurethral suppository or injection. Side effects of this treatment may include light-headedness, fainting, intraurethral bleeding, hematoma, priapism, and penile curvature. The efficacy of this treatment is only 50%, so the risks may not outweigh the benefits.
In cases where oral medications or lifestyle changes aren’t enough to restore erectile function, vacuum constriction devices are an option. This device consists of a cylinder that is placed over the penis, attached to a pump you use to create vacuum pressure inside the cylinder to facilitate an erection. Once the penis is erect, a constriction band is placed around the base to prevent blood from flowing out of the penis. This band is safe to use for up to 30 minutes and the use of vacuum constriction devices has a positive outcome in 50% to 80% of cases.
This form of ED treatment is mentioned last because it is the most extreme and the most invasive – it is typically reserved for cases where all other treatment options have been exhausted. Surgical treatment for erectile dysfunction involves implanting an internal penile pump (IPP) or a malleable device that keeps the penis firm. With an IPP, the user uses a handheld pump to fill the device with fluid, resulting in an erection. The satisfaction rate with penile implants is over 90%, though you must consider that this treatment is typically used by patients for whom no other treatments have worked so any positive result would lead to satisfaction.
Aside from psychotherapy, there are a few other non-medical treatment options for erectile dysfunction. For example, doing pelvic floor exercises (also known as kegels) may improve penile function and masturbation can help you explore your sexual preferences and improve arousal. A small study of 55 men aged 20 or older engaged in pelvic floor exercises for three months. After three months, the men who performed the exercises regularly showed significant improvement in erectile function and, after 6 months, more than 40% of the participants had regained normal erectile function.
Here is what pelvic floor exercises look like if you want to try them yourself:
In addition to these exercises, there are several alternative forms of treatment for ED. Prostatic massage, for example, can promote blood flow to the penis by massaging the tissues in and around the groin. Acupuncture has shown some promise in improving erectile function, though current studies are inconclusive.
Making changes to your lifestyle such as improving your diet and increasing your activity level will help resolve some of the underlying causes for ED and reevaluating the medications you are taking may help to take drug interactions off the list of factors contributing to your erectile problems.
Before you can even think about which ED treatment to try, you need to talk to your doctor to determine the underlying cause for your erectile issues. If your problem is rooted in a physical health problem, treating that condition will typically be the first stage of treatment. For psychological causes of ED, you may want to consider therapy or simply practice on your own to improve ejaculatory control and improve sensitisation.
Though it may pain you to admit that you have erectile dysfunction, living in denial isn’t going to make the problem go away. It should be clear to you by now that many treatment options exist so you really have no reason not to try one. Talk to your doctor about your concerns and together the two of you will determine the best course of treatment.