What Can I Do About Erectile Dysfunction?

Treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED) varies if you have certain health issues like diabetes.

Fortunately, there are plenty of treatment options available. Consult with a doctor to determine which option may work best for you.

Oral Medications

There are several oral medications that facilitate blood flow to the penis. Your doctor might recommend sildenafil (Revatio, Viagra), vardenafil (Staxyn, Levitra), or tadalafil (Adcirca, Cialis).

However, oral medications may not be recommended if you:

  • Use nitrate medications typically prescribed for chest pain.
  • Are using alpha blockers, antibiotics, blood thinners, anti-arrhythmic, or anti-seizure drugs.
  • Have heart problems, uncontrolled low or high blood pressure, or had a stroke.
  • Have certain eye problems.
  • Have severe liver or kidney disease.

When oral medications are not an option, there are a few non-oral treatments available.


Non-oral ED Medications

Non-oral medications for ED include alprostadil (Muse), a tiny suppository that is placed into the urethra (urine tube) before engaging in sex; the resulting erection lasts about 30 to 60 minutes. Possible side effects are pain and some bleeding in the urethra.

Alprostadil can also be injected (Caverject, Edex) into the side or base of the penis for an erection that lasts about one hour. Although it is hard to imagine, some men tolerate this treatment well. The needle is extremely fine, keeping pain to a minimum. Prolonged erection, scar tissue, or bleeding at the injection site are possible side effects.

Some cases of ED are caused by low levels of testosterone and treated with testosterone replacement therapy.

Uplifting Devices

Should the variety of oral and non-oral medications be inappropriate or fail, erection devices may come to the rescue.


Hand or battery powered devices called a vacuum or penis pump, are a low risk way to initiate an erection. A hollow tube is placed over the penis. Its pumping action pulls air out of the tube creating a vacuum that draws blood in. A tension ring is put at the base of the penis to hold the blood in place after achieving an erection and removed after intercourse.

Possible pump side effects are less forceful ejaculations and penile bruising. Your doctor may suggest a pump model that best suits your needs and can recommend reliable manufacturers.

An inflatable or a semi-rigid surgical implant is an option when both medications and pumps are not up to the task. Rods are placed into both sides of the penis. The semi-rigid type leaves the penis firm yet bendable. The inflatable rods give men control over when and how long they sustain an erection. It is a generally safe and effective remedy for ED, but usually recommended after other treatments have failed.


Rarely,blocked blood vessels are the cause of ED and surgery may be recommended for repair.

Four Lifestyle ED Remedies

By making wise lifestyle choices you can improve ED and increase your overall well-being.

  1. Smoking contributes to ED in two ways. First, it narrows blood vessels, impeding blood flow to the genitals, Second, smoking lowers a person’s levels of nitric oxide, the chemical that tells the body when more blood is wanted in the penis. There is no easy way to quit smoking but there are plenty of products and people available to help. Talk to your doctor for suggestions.
  2. Follow your diabetes treatment regimen and stick to a healthy diet of nutritious, mostly non-processed foods. Extra pounds can cause or exacerbate ED.
  3. An active lifestyle helps relieve ED by reducing stress, improving blood circulation and helping with weight maintenance or loss.
  4. Since anxiety and depression can cause ED, choosing to see a psychotherapist for relief of mental health symptoms may lift your mood and your genitalia.

Source: Mayo Clinic ; Mayo Clinic
Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/klengel


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