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Treatment Options for ED

Learn more about the common therapies and medications that can help you overcome ED.

These days, you have a whole range of options for dealing with erectile dysfunction (ED). The exact treatment you use will depend on what's causing your ED. In general, your options include lifestyle changes, counseling, medication and devices.

Lifestyle changes. If your doctor has ruled out a serious underlying cause, lifestyle changes—exercise, eating right, reducing stress—may be your first step to better sexual health.

Counseling. If your "down there" problems are psychological, talking with a counselor or sex therapist may help you get things back in working order.

Medication. If your ED is caused by a health problem, such as high blood pressure or heart disease, your doctor may prescribe medication to get blood flowing into the right places again.

Injections and devices. While some men opt for penile injections, others find help with penile pumps, vacuums, or penile implants.

More About ED Medications and TreatmentsIf you own a television, it's likely you know a little something about ED medications, since they've been heavily advertised over the last several years. The most commonly known meds for ED—Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra—are called phosphodiesterase inhibitors, but others may be prescribed as well, depending on the cause of your ED and your overall health condition.

  • Phosphodiesterase inhibitors: Three well-known oral medications can make it easier for a man to get and keep and erection: sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), and vardenafil (Levitra). Another phosphodiesterase inhibitor, avanafil (Stendra) was FDA approved in 2012. These drugs boost the effects of nitric oxide in the body and improve penis blood flow. About 65 to 70 percent of men who take these drugs have better erections, but they can have side effects and aren't safe for people with some health conditions, such as heart disease or uncontrolled diabetes.
  • Alprostadil: This drug is inserted into the penis as a suppository, or it can be injected directly into the penis alone or combined with other medications (Bi-Mix, Tri-Mix). While about 90 percent of men experience erections from this process—it can be painful and result in bleeding, dizziness, and scar tissue.
  • Testosterone: If ED is caused by low testosterone, patches, creams, or injections of testosterone may help you have better erections.
  • Penile implants: If ED meds don't work, a penile implant will often do the trick. Implants are surgically inserted into the spongy tissue of the penis, and can be semi-rigid or inflatable. They carry the general risks of surgery and usually need to be replaced after about 10 years. Studies show that 70 to 80 percent of men are satisfied with their penile implants.
  • Penis pumps: Penis pumps are hand- or battery-powered pumps used to create a vacuum that draws blood into the penis, resulting in an erection. A constriction device (aka, a cock ring) is used to maintain the erection. Pain, bruising, and difficulty ejaculating are common side effects.

Medically reviewed in July 2018.

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