Good news -- erectile dysfunction can be successfully treated in most men. Here are your different treatment options, from simple lifestyle changes right through to gadgets, surgery, and prescription medicines.
What is erectile dysfunction?
Erectile Dysfunction is the inability to get an erection, or to maintain an erection until you climax. Most men will suffer from this problem at some point in their life. A UK study in 2014 estimated that 40% of men over the age of 40 will suffer from erectile dysfunction. It can be caused by physical issues (like prostate surgery, or high cholesterol) or psychological issues (like anxiety, nerves or stress).
Read more about the psychological impact of erectile dysfunction
It’s always a good idea to talk to a doctor about any changes in your ability to get an erection, as erectile dysfunction can be a symptom of a more serious health problem like high blood-pressure, heart disease or diabetes.
What treatments are available for erectile dysfunction?
There are several different treatments available for erectile dysfunction.
Stopping smoking, reducing the amount you drink to under 14 units a week, and taking daily exercise can all help. These activities increase the amount of blood flow to your penis, which can strengthen your erections. Here are other natural remedies that can help.
- Relatively easy to start straight away.
- Can also improve your overall health and fitness.
- Won’t cure erectile dysfunction caused by a medical issue.
- Can take a while to see results.
- You have to stop smoking and reduce the amount you drink.
Erectile dysfunction medication
In Ireland, there are two types of medications available to treat erectile dysfunction.
Phoshodiesterase-5 (PDE) Inhibitors
These are the types of meds that include the classic little blue pill, and they work by temporarily increasing blood flow to your penis when you receive sexual stimulation. You can’t pop a pill and wait for the magic to happen. You or your partner will have to put some work in too, whether that’s by enjoying some foreplay or cuddling up in front of Bridges of Madison County.
Important: PDE-5 Inhibitors must not be taken by anyone suffering from certain medical conditions, including serious heart or liver problems, low or high blood pressure, who are taking nitrate medicines or who have recently had a stroke or heart attack.
You should also consult a Doctor or Pharmacist before taking PDE-5 inhibitors if you suffer from Peyronie’s Disease (curved penis), liver or kidney problems, or have a blood disease like sickle-cell anaemia, leukaemia, or multiple myeloma.
- Long-lasting effects, from 4 to 32 hours.
- Fast-acting: you can be basking in the afterglow within 30 minutes.
- Available in different doses, depending on whether you want targeted treatment or everyday support.
- Can’t be taken with too much alcohol (for example, more than 5 shots or a bottle of wine). This may limit your choice of partner.
- Side-effects can include headache, indigestion, back or muscle aches, flushing, or blocked nose.
- Rare but serious side-effects can include sudden loss of vision or hearing. (This may increase your choice of partner.)
Another type of medicine available to treat erectile dysfunction is a vasodilator. This works by widening the blood vessels in your penis to improve the flow of blood and can cause an erection within 15-20 minutes. There are three ways of using vasodilators: as an injection, as a suppository (a tiny pellet, about the size of half a grain of rice, that you place into your urethra) or – most recently – as a cream. Whichever method you choose, a doctor or nurse will help you apply the first treatment, so you learn how to use it yourself.
- Suitable for men who can’t (or don’t want to) take PDE-5 medications, or who are taking nitrates.
- Faster acting than other types of medication.
- No pills.
- A common side effect is a temporarily painful penis, or a burning sensation.
- Injectable treatments can cause bruising or bleeding.
- Other side effects include headaches, light-headedness, feeling dizzy, testicular pain or leg cramping.
- Condoms are recommended.
Penis pumps are handheld devices that create a vacuum around the penis. The vacuum draws blood into the blood vessels of the penis, creating an erection. They are waterproof so can be used in the shower or the bath. You could even use them as part of your foreplay – but check your partner isn’t secretly angry with you first. Once you have an erection, add a penis ring (or cock ring) to prolong it.
- Create an immediate erection.
- Effective in 90% of cases.
- No medication.
- Relatively inexpensive, no ongoing costs. Can sometimes be given on prescription or be covered by health insurance.
- Won’t give you a bigger penis, despite some wild claims by manufacturers.
- Can cause mild bleeding under the skin.
- Should not be used by people with blood disorders, have a history of blood clots, or who take blood-thinning mediation.
Penile Implants (also known as Penile Prostheses) are the bionic option. Usually recommended only for men who’ve permanently lost their ability to achieve an erection – for example, after bladder or prostate cancer treatment. Implants are fitted during surgery. They take the form of a malleable rod (like a goose-neck lamp) that can be adjusted to straighten the penis, or – more commonly – a 2- or 3-piece cylinder that can be inflated to create an erection.
- A permanent solution.
- Can be used by patients who can’t take medications, or who’ve physically lost their ability to achieve an erection.
- A permanent solution. Not something you can go into flightily, as the operation removes your ability to become erect naturally.
- As with all surgery, there are risks for complications or infections – although outcomes are for this procedure are good, with a 90% patient and partner satisfaction rate.
Low intensity shockwave therapy (LiST)
A promising new treatment for erectile dysfunction is shockwave therapy. And yes, it’s exactly what you fear it might be: electric shocks delivered straight into your manhood. Unlike medication, LiST might be able to cure erectile dysfunction long-term. So far it’s still in clinical trials, but it is showing promising effects for men suffering from vascular ED.
- Tests suggest it can produce long-term improvements in erectile dysfunction.
- No pills, creams or injections. The treatment is painless, despite being an electric shock straight to your bits.
- Suitable for men who can’t take medications.
- Still in trials.
- Can cause burning at the site of treatment.
- It’s an ELECTRIC SHOCK. To your PENIS.
Can I get ED treatment online?
Yes. We can supply erectile dysfunction medication. Just complete our health questionnaire, and then your prescription request will be reviewed by an Irish registered GP. Once it’s approved, your medication will be delivered discreetly to your door. It’s just €25.
This blog was written by Kate Taylor, a Sex Expert, Sex and Dating Features Writer, columnist and author of five books, for HealthHero.ie.