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What Are the Treatment Options for Erectile Dysfunction?

Katelyn Hagerty FNP

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 3/23/2021

If you experience erectile dysfunction, you are not alone!

More than 30 million men in the United States are affected by erectile dysfunction. 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.

ED Treatment Options

If you suffer from erectile dysfunction, take heart in knowing that there are plenty of ED treatment options available to you – all you have to do is step up and talk to your healthcare provider about the options. Keep reading to learn more about treatments for erectile dysfunction.

Psychotherapy

We mention this ED treatment option first because many cases of erectile dysfunction are psychological rather than physical. 

Sometimes it’s true what they say – that it’s all in your head.

Many men balk 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.

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Oral Treatment Options

Also known as the "little blue pill," Viagra® is the most commonly prescribed erectile dysfunction drug, though there are three others approved by the FDA. 

Sildenafil (generic Viagra), avanafil (generic Stendra®), vardenafil (Levitra®), and tadalafil (generic Cialis®) are the top four 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 usually last for anywhere from three to five hours or so — except in the case of Cialis, which can last up to 36 hours, hence its nickname, “the weekend pill.” 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 percent to 16 percent of users report headache, flushing, or low blood pressure. 

Nasal congestion occurs in two percent to four percent of cases and nausea or other gastrointestinal problems in five percent to seven percent of users.

Suppositories and Injections

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 dizziness, fainting, intraurethral bleeding, hematoma, priapism, and penile curvature.

Vacuum Constriction Devices

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 while the efficacy of the vacuum constriction devices generally varies from study to study, the overall success rate is high.

For instance, in one study of 1,500 men with organic erectile dysfunction, over 87 percent of participants were able to achieve a full erection after just one use.

Surgical Treatment Options

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.

Non-Medical Treatment Options for ED

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 six months, more than 40 percent of the participants had regained normal erectile function.

Here is what pelvic floor exercises look like if you want to try them yourself:

  1. Identify your pelvic floor muscles – these are the muscles you engage to stop the flow of urine.

  2. Practice contracting your pelvic floor muscles – you should notice your testicles rising when you contract the muscles.

  3. Contract your pelvic floor muscles and hold for 5 seconds.

  4. Release and then repeat 10 to 20 times, increasing the duration of each hold as desired.

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.

Which ED Treatment Option is Right for You?

Before you can even think about which ED treatment to try, you need to talk to your healthcare provider 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 sensitization.

Though it may pain you to admit that you have erectile dysfunction, living in denial isn’t going to make the problem go away. 

And luckily, the research to help treat erectile dysfunction is becoming more robust by the day — there are plenty of roads for you to go down to help beat your ED. 

Talk to your healthcare provider about your concerns and together the two of you will determine the best course of treatment.

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This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

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