Erectile Dysfunction, or ED, is a very common sexual problem for men.

Defined as the inability to achieve or maintain an erect penis adequate for sexual function, ED affects up to 30 million American men.

For some men the problem is intermittent, while for others it is more severe. Any amount of ED can lower a man’s self esteem, and cause stress and anxiety. ED can also have a negative effect a marriage or intimate relationship. However, there are treatment options available for ED, including some noninvasive, nonsurgical options.

Oral Medications to Treat Erectile Dysfunction

There are several oral medications available for the treatment of ED, including Viagra, Levitra and Cialis. Each of these medications is a phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitor (PDE-5) which boosts the natural signals that are generated during sex. These medications cause the muscles in the penis to relax, allowing for better blood flow, which improves and prolongs the erection. Almost 80 percent of men who try one of these PDE-5 inhibitors show improvement with use. Side effects are usually mild and temporary, and can include headache, stuffy nose, flushing and muscle aches. Your urologist can educate you further regarding the oral medication options for ED.

Other Medications to Treat Erectile Dysfunction

Though the oral medications for ED have a high success rate, they don’t work for everybody. Some men will want to consider another drug called alprostadil, which needs to be injected directly into the side of the penis, or can be taken as an intraurethral suppository. Though side effects may include a burning sensation in the penis and a prolonged erection lasting for over four hours, up to 85 percent of men report success with the use of this drug.

A Vacuum Device to Treat Erectile Dysfunction

For men who do not want to treat their ED with medications, there is a vacuum device which can achieve the desired effect. How does the vacuum device work? This device is made of a plastic cylinder that covers the penis, making a seal with the skin. A pump at the end of the cylinder creates a low-pressure vacuum around the erectile tissue, causing an erection. To maintain the erection once the cylinder is removed, a rubber band constricts the base of the penis. When properly instructed on the use of this device, 75 percent of men can achieve successful erections with the vacuum method.

Each of the non-surgical treatment options for ED has a high rate of success. However, it is also important to remember that though effective in achieving erections, none of these treatments corrects the underlying cause of ED. Though ED is a very common problem, there are many potential causes, including both physical and psychological factors. These varying causes can include the emotional stress of relationship problems, a hormonal issue such as low testosterone, a physical issue such as high blood pressure, or use of drugs or alcohol. It is important to consult your urologist so that you can determine the cause of your ED, and make sure you choose the best course of treatment to meet your needs.