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Other Treatments

Most of the best-known treatments for ED work well and are safe. But in making your choice, ask your health care provider about any possible problems that could result with each option:

  • Vacuum erection device
  • Oral drugs
  • Drugs in the penis
  • Surgery



A vacuum erection device is a plastic tube that slips over the penis, making a seal with the skin of the body. A pump at the other end of the tube creates a low-pressure vacuum around the erectile tissue, which results in an erection. An elastic ring is then slipped onto the base of the penis. This holds the blood in the penis (and keeps it hard) for up to 30 minutes. With proper training, 75 out of 100 men can get a working erection using a vacuum erection device.


A vacuum erection device helps draw blood into the penis by applying negative pressure. This type of device is sometimes referred to as penis pump and may be used just prior to sexual intercourse. Several types of FDA approved vacuum therapy devices are available with a doctor’s prescription. When pharmacological methods fail, a purpose-designed external vacuum pump can be used to attain erection, with a separate compression ring fitted to the penis to maintain it. These pumps should be distinguished from other penis pumps (supplied without compression rings) which, rather than being used for temporary treatment of impotence, are claimed to increase penis length if used frequently, or vibrate as an aid to masturbation. More drastically, inflatable or rigid penile implants may be fitted surgically.


Vacuum erection devices are a mechanical way of producing an erection for men who do not want or cannot use drug treatments or find they are not working.

The penis is made rigid by the use of a vacuum pump sealed around it that draws up blood – this is prevented from then leaving the penis by the use of an accompanying band – a rubber ring is rolled to the base of the organ and sexual penetration can begin.

The potential problems against personal preference for such mechanical devices are obvious, including a lack of spontaneity. Other potential disadvantages include:

  • Bruising of the penis
  • Tissue damage caused if the ring is left on for too long
  • Coldness of the tip of the penis.


Oral Drugs

Drugs known as PDE-5 inhibitors relax muscle cells in the penis and increase blood flow. (These are the drugs you often see on TV and in Internet ads.)

  • Viagra® (sildenafil citrate)
  • Levitra® (vardenafilHCl)
  • Cialis® (tadalafil)

Men with ED take these pills before having sex. The drugs boost the natural signals that are generated during sex to help you have a better erection that lasts longer. The drug works by relaxing the muscle cells in the penis, letting the blood flow better to give a firm erection. These drugs often work well, and nearly 80 out 100 men show improvement once they start using them.

The side effects of PDE-5 inhibitors are mild and often last just a short time. The side effects also get weaker the longer you use the drug. The most common side effects are:

  • Headache
  • Stuffy nose
  • Flushing
  • Muscle aches

In rare cases, sildenafil can cause blue-green shading of vision that lasts for a short time. There is no long-term risk and the problem goes away as the amount of the drug in the body lowers. It is important to follow the instructions for taking this drug to get the best results.

If you are taking nitrates for your heart, you should speak with your health care provider before using a PDE-5 inhibitor to learn how it might affect your health.

Drugs in the Penis

If oral drugs don’t work, another drug, alprostadil, is approved for use in men with ED. This drug comes in two forms, depending on how it is to be used:

Self-Injection Therapy

Medical Injections for Impotence

The drug is injected into the side of penis with a very fine needle. The success rate for getting an erection firm enough to have sex is as high as 85%.

Intraurethral Therapy

A tiny medicated pellet of the drug is placed in the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of your body). Using the drug this way avoids having to give yourself a shot, but makes it less likely to work.

The most common side effects of alprostadil are a burning feeling in the penis, and an erection that can last for over four hours and need medical attention to make it go down.


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