If you have erectile dysfunction (ED), you should know you have a lot of treatment options. It's important that you first go to the doctor to determine what's causing the problem. Only then can you figure out what treatments are likely to work, with the least amount of potential side effects.
It may be tempting to rush out and ask for a prescription. But according to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC), you should try other steps first:
- If you smoke cigarettes, quit. Smoking may be a symbol of rugged sexiness, but in fact a boatload of evidence points to smoking as a prime cause of ED.
- Reduce alcohol consumption. While one drink may arouse you, too much alcohol may contribute to ED. Some studies suggest 8 or more drinks a week may be too much.
- Lose weight. If you're overweight, try to shed some of those pounds. Obesity hinders sexual health.
- Hit the treadmill. Or the pool, tennis court, walking path — the more you exercise, the lower your risk of ED.
- Review your medications. Many common medications, including blood pressure pills, have ED as a side effect. Ask your doctor to review your prescription (and non-prescription) drugs. There are usually other medications to try that may not contribute to your ED.
- Consider counseling. Many men with ED develop anxiety when it comes to sexual intercourse. Anxiety can then worsen the condition. Talking to a therapist can give you strategies for coping with anxiety.
If altering life style and behaviors hasn't helped, the next step may be to try medication. Prescription drugs include sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil hydrochloride (Levitra) and tadalafil (Cialis). They are all in a class of drugs called PDE-5 inhibitors that help relax the smooth muscles of the penis to allow increased blood flow. These medications should only be taken once a day, about an hour before you want to have intercourse. Viagra and Levitra are in the bloodstream for about 4 hours, while the effect of Cialis may last more than a day.
Potential side effects of the drugs include problems with color vision (Viagra) and muscle aches (Cialis). NKUDIC cautions men who are taking some heart medications, such as nitroglycerine, or alpha-blockers for enlarged prostate (itself a cause of ED) or high blood pressure may not be able to safely take medications for ED. That's one reason you must have a prescription for them.
Dietary supplements marketed as "natural Viagra" or "male enhancement" products should be avoided according to the Food and Drug Administration. These products are sold through the Internet and at pharmacies and health food stores.
Other medication options include injecting drugs directly into the penis for an immediate erection or inserting a suppository into the urethra at the tip of the penis. These drugs have more side effects.
For those who do not have success with behavior modification and medication — roughly 5 to 8 percent of men with ED, according to the Mayo Clinic — there are penile implants. These are small rods or inflatable devices that you can control, in order to have intercourse.
Finally, there is surgery for the vascular system, which may be recommended if you have had an injury, and mechanical vacuum devices.
Remember, no matter the cause of your ED, it's a very common condition as men age. Treatment will often help.