Erectile dysfunction (impotence) is the inability to get and keep an erection firm enough for sex.
Having erection trouble from time to time isn't necessarily a cause for concern. If erectile dysfunction is an ongoing issue, however, it can cause stress, affect your self-confidence and contribute to relationship problems. Problems getting or keeping an erection can also be a sign of an underlying health condition that needs treatment and a risk factor for heart disease.
If you're concerned about erectile dysfunction, talk to your doctor — even if you're embarrassed. Sometimes, treating an underlying condition is enough to reverse erectile dysfunction. In other cases, medications or other direct treatments might be needed.
Many health issues can reduce blood flow into the penis, such as hardened arteries, heart disease, high blood sugar (Diabetes) and smoking.
If blood does not stay in the penis, a man cannot keep an erection. This issue can happen at any age.
Certain diseases, injury or surgery in the pelvic area can harm nerves to the penis.
Patients should talk about drug side effects with their primary care doctors.
Surgery and or radiation for cancers in the lower abdomen or pelvis can cause ED. Treating prostate, colon-rectal or bladder cancer often leaves men with ED. Cancer survivors should see a Urologist for sexual health concerns.
Non-invasive treatments are often tried first. Most of the best-known treatments for ED work well and are safe. Still, it helps to ask your health care provider about side effects that could result from each option:
— Oral drugs or pills known as phosphodiesterase type-5 inhibitors are most often prescribed in the U.S. for ED
— Testosterone Therapy (when low testosterone is detected in blood testing)
— Penile Injections
— Intraurethral medication
— Vacuum Erection Devices
— Penile Implants
—Surgery to bypass penile artery damage for some younger men with a history of severe pelvic trauma. Penile vascular surgery is not recommended for older men with hardened arteries.
Drugs known as PDE type-5 inhibitors increase penile blood flow. These are the only oral agents approved in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of ED.
For best results, men with ED take these pills about an hour or two before having sex. The drugs require normal nerve function to the penis. PDE5 inhibitors improve on normal erectile responses helping blood flow into the penis. Use these drugs as directed. About 7 out of 10 men do well and have better erections. Response rates are lower for Diabetics and cancer patients.
If you are taking nitrates for your heart, you SHOULD NOT take any PDE5 inhibitors. Always speak with your health care provider before using a PDE5 inhibitor to learn how it might affect your health.
Most often, the side effects of PDE5 inhibitors are mild and often last just a short time. The most common side effects are:
— Stuffy nose
— Facial flushing
— Muscle aches
In those rare cases where a low sex drive and low blood levels of Testosterone are at fault for ED, Testosterone Therapy may fix normal erections or help when combined with ED drugs (PDE type 5 inhibitors).
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 makes 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.
If oral drugs don't work, the drug is approved for use in men with ED. This drug comes in two forms, based on how it is to be used: intracavernosal injection (called "ICI") or through the urethra (called "IU therapy").
Drug is injected into the side of penis with a very fine needle. It's of great value to have the first shot in the doctor's office before doing this on your own. Self-injection lessons should be given in your doctor's office by an experienced professional. The success rate for getting an erection firm enough to have sex is as high as 85% with this treatment. Many men who do not respond to oral PDE5 inhibitors can be ‘rescued' with ICI.
ICI Drug may be used as a mixture with two other drugs to treat ED. This combination therapy called "bimix or trimix" is stronger than drug alone and has become standard treatment for ED. Only the drug ingredient is FDA approved for ED. The amount of each drug used can be changed based on the severity of your ED, by an experienced health professional. You will be trained by your health professional on how to inject, how much to inject and how to safely raise the drug's dosage if necessary.
ICI therapy often produces a reliable erection, which comes down after 20-30 minutes or with climax. Since the ICI erection is not regulated by your penile nerves, you should not be surprised if the erection lasts after orgasm. The most common side effect of ICI therapy is a prolonged erection. Prolonged erections (>1 hour) can be reversed by a second injection (antidote) in the office.
Men who have penile erections lasting longer than two to four hours should seek Emergency Room care. Priapism is a prolonged erection, lasting longer than four hours. It is very painful. Failure to undo priapism will lead to permanent penile damage and untreatable ED.
For IU 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 means you don't have to give yourself a shot, unfortunately it may not work as well as ICI.
The main surgical treatment of ED involves insertion of a penile implant (also called penile prostheses). Because penile vascular surgery is not recommended for aging males who have failed oral PDE5 inhibitors, ICI or IU therapies, implants are the next step for these patients. Although placement of a penile implant is a surgery which carries risks, they have the highest rates of success and satisfaction among ED treatment options.
Penile implants are devices that are placed fully inside your body. They make a stiff penis that lets you have normal sex. This is an excellent choice to improve uninterupted intimacy and makes relations more spontaneous.
There are two types of penile implants.
Semi rigid Implant (Bendable)
The simplest kind of implant is made from two easy-to-bend rods that are most often made of silicone. These silicone rods give the man's penis the firmness needed for sexual penetration. The implant can be bent downward for peeing or upward for sex.
With an inflatable implant , fluid-filled cylinders are placed lengthwise in the penis. Tubing joins these cylinders to a pump placed inside the scrotum (between the testicles). When the pump is engaged, pressure in the cylinders inflate the penis and makes it stiff. Inflatable implants make a normal looking erection and are natural feeling for your partner. Your surgeon may suggest a lubricant for your partner. With the implant, men can control firmness and, sometimes, the size of the erection. Implants allows a couple to be spontaneously intimate. There is generally no change to a man's feeling or orgasm.
What is the Surgery Like?
Penile implants are most often placed under anesthesia. If a patient has a systemic, skin, or urinary tract infection, this surgery should be postponed until all infections are treated. If a man is on blood thinners, then he may need to talk with a medical expert about stopping the medications for elective surgery and healing.
Most often, one small surgical cut is made. The cut is either above the penis where it joins the belly, or under the penis where it joins the scrotum. No tissue is removed. Blood loss is typically small. A patient will either go home on the same day or spend one night in the hospital.
Recovery Time after Penile Implants:
Most men will feel pain and will feel better with a narcotic pain-relief drug for one to two weeks. After the first week, over- the-counter pain drugs (such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen) may be substituted for narcotic pain drugs.
Discomfort, bruising and swelling after the surgery will last for a few weeks.
For the first month, men should limit their physical activity. The surgeon will explain when and how much exercise to do during the healing period.
Men most often start having sex with their penile implants by eight weeks after surgery. If there is persisting swelling or pain, the use of the implant may be delayed. The surgeon or health care expert in the surgeon's office will talk about how to inflate and deflate the implant.
How do I know my ED is physical and not mental?
It's hard to know. Health providers now realize that most men have an underlying physical cause of ED. For most patients, there are both physical and emotional factors that lead to ED. It is impossible to prove that there is no psychological part to a man's ED.
If I worry about being able to get an erection, can I make a bad condition worse?
Nothing happens in the body without the brain. Worrying about your ability to get an erection can make it difficult to get one. This is called performance anxiety and can be overcome with education and treatment.
Can I combine treatment options?
This is often done. However, only combine treatments after talking with your health care provider about this. Erections can last too long with drug therapy, which is dangerous. Ask your doctor for proper instructions.
I was fine until I began taking this new drug, what should I do?
Never stop or change a prescription medication without first talking with your health care provider.
Many drugs can cause ED, but some cannot be changed because the drug's benefits are too important for you. If you feel sure that a specific drug has caused the ED problem, ask your health care provider if you can change drugs. If you must stay on the drug that is causing the problem, there are ED treatments that can help.