The best and most effective long-term treatment for erectile dysfunction is to find the underlying cause of the problem, and treat that. This applies whether the cause is physical, psychological, emotional, or all of the above.
In the majority of cases, the cause is physical and frequently relates to conditions that affect the blood vessels and blood flow, such as diabetes or heart disease. Many sufferers of erectile dysfunction may benefit from lifestyle changes including weight loss, quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, and improving overall health through diet, exercise and reduction of stress.
In some cases of erectile dysfunction, the condition is temporary and may resolve itself over time. For instance, temporary illness, anxiety or tiredness can cause short-term erectile dysfunction that goes away when the cause is treated through medication, therapy or rest.
Surgical or non-surgical treatments?
In more serious cases of erectile dysfunction, following prostate cancer treatments for example, surgery involving penile implants may provide an effective and successful long-term solution. Surgery is not for everyone however – some sufferers do not need surgery, and some prefer to choose non-surgical treatments.
Effective non-surgical treatments
Fortunately, there are some very effective non-surgical treatments available. These include:
Medications such as Viagra, Levitra or Cialis are known as PDE-5 inhibitors, and work by increasing blood flow to the penile tissue in order to create an erection. It’s important to note that these drugs are not a hormonal treatment, nor are they designed to increase libido.
Some drug treatments need to be taken just prior to intercourse, while others should be taken on a daily basis. They are generally safe, but should not be used without medical supervision, especially by men who are taking nitrate drug treatments for heart disease.
Penile injections open the blood vessels and increase blood flow to the penis, creating an erection within minutes which lasts for up to 30 minutes. Side effects may include penile scarring, or prolonged erections – especially if the dose is too high. Injection therapy must be done under medical supervision, and when proper care is taken this treatment can be very effective.
Vacuum constriction device
This device – also sometimes called a vacuum pump – can be used to produce an erection within a few minutes. The erection can last for up to 30 minutes.
The device is made up of a cylinder and pump, either hand or battery-operated, with the vacuum effect being created through pumping air out of the cylinder.
As for the other treatments mentioned, vacuum pumps are designed to increase blood flow to the penis. It can be a very effective treatment for men who have a physical erectile dysfunction problem, and who do not wish to take the surgical option. It is also relatively inexpensive.
Some men report a cold feeling and a loss of sensation in the penis, or a loss of spontaneity. Some bruising may also occur, although it is usually not painful.
Linear shockwave therapy
This is a new treatment that uses low-intensity shockwaves to reverse vascular dysfunction in the penis. It involves having four or five treatments over several weeks in a day clinic. Treatment is usually pain-free.
This treatment may suit men who cannot take PDE-5 drugs or those who have undergone prostate cancer treatment.
Psychotherapy and counselling may be helpful on their own where the cause of erectile dysfunction is psychological. They may also be used in conjunction with physical treatments, particularly for men who are struggling with anxiety and loss of self-confidence as a result of erectile function problems.