Alternative treatments for erectile dysfunctions: penis pumps to shockwave therapy
Various alternatives to PDE-5 inhibitors are gaining fame for erectile dysfunction treatment.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to achieve enough erection for successful intercourse. According to King's College London, it affects every 1 in 5 British males. The incidence increases with advancing age. Due to its high incidence and dangerous consequences for the physical, psychological and social well-being of men, various options for the treatment of ED have been developed.
Find the right solution for your erectile dysfunction
Viagra and other PDE-5 blockers are the traditionally most common drugs prescribed for ED. However, their results vary from person to person. What if you get no benefit from ED drugs? What if you can't use these drugs due to any reason? Should you surrender to impotence? The answer is 'No'. The medical community has more options for you.
Alternative options for erectile dysfunction treatment
Here are some alternatives to ED drugs that are useful for treating erectile dysfunction. These alternatives work similarly by increasing the blood flow towards the penis. Let's discuss them.
It is a vacuum pump. Other alternative names for this device are erectile dysfunction pump or penis pump.
How does a penis pump work?
This pump is in the form of a cylindrical tube. When placed on the penis, it creates a vacuum that attracts the blood and thus increases the blood flow towards the penis. Electrically and mechanically powered devices are available, fitted with a retaining ring that ensures a regular vacuum and, therefore, a regular circulation.
What's their efficacy?
These devices are very effective and improve the erectile functions of the penis. A 2013 report published in the Translational Andrology and Urology claimed that these vacuum erectile devices are very effective, safe and well tolerated. It increases arterial blood flow and has anti-hypoxic functions.
What could be the possible side effects?
Side effects are not typical, and these pumps are safe when used cautiously. However, unsafe use can cause the following issues;
- Numbness of penis
- Bruises on penis
- Physical discomfort and pain
- Blockage of ejaculation
- Small reddish dots manifest small haemorrhages (petechiae) under the penile skin.
It has its roots in the old Chinese practice of pricking tiny needles at specific points on the body. This practice is known as Qi (pronounced as 'chee'), and according to Chinese traditional medicine, it can restore life energy to the body.
Although traditional Chinese medicine is classified as a pseudoscience, some people claim it could help in ED. A 2016 review published in the Biomedical Research found that the available evidence is insufficient to enlist acupuncture among erectile dysfunction treatments, and more studies with larger sample sizes are required.
Does it work for ED?
Although some traditions claim that it can restore the erection function, no scientific investigation has verified these claims and scientific evidence is limited.Is it safe?
Side effects can occur with unsafe practice and these include;
- Bruises or bleeding
- Physical discomfort and pain
Erectile dysfunction gels
These gels are applied directly on the scrotum or on the penile shaft before the sex.
How do these gels work?
These gels contain an active ingredient called alprostadil (prostaglandin E1). This compound causes the widening and dilation of blood vessels in the penis. More blood flow in the penis (after arousal) allows you to maintain the erection for more extended periods.
Are the gels effective?
A study published in Urology found that only 38.9% of users were able to achieve enough erection to achieve successful penetration. However, the safety data is limited and the use is mainly over the counter.
Another research study noted that further studies are needed to explore the usefulness of ED gels, particularly for patients with penile neuropathy.
Are these gels safe?
The safety data of these gels is limited because no large-scale safety studies have been conducted, and the small-scale studies have produced inconsistent results.
The side effects are mostly mild in nature and the following side effects are reported;
- Burning sensation
- Sexual dysfunction
- Pain in the urinary tract
- Inflammation of penile skin and glans penis
- Skin irritation and discomfort
These are short-term effects, and no data on long-term safety is available. Therefore, it is good to consult a sexual health expert to know if it causes any reactions or can react adversely to the medicines you are already using.
Natural treatment options
Besides these remedies, you can manage your ED with non-medicinal approaches. For example, Rhodiola rosae and ginseng are often sold with a claim to benefit in the ED. Other natural ED treatments are;
- Exercise as it improves blood circulation
- A healthy diet containing whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish etc.
- A regular, healthy and good-quality sleep
- Leaving smoking and alcohol
Do these remedies work?
Very few large-scale clinical trials have explored the efficacy of these remedies and the results of small studies involving few individuals do not qualify as efficacy data. However, smaller studies have found that these remedies benefit sexual dysfunction, e.g., ED.
Are these remedies safe?
The safety of these remedies is also variable. Some, e.g., ginseng, are safe and well tolerated. The side effects, e.g., gastrointestinal disturbances, insomnia and headache, are experienced due to unsafe and excessive use. The benefits of exercise, a healthy lifestyle, good sleep and a good diet are beyond doubtless.
The other options, e.g., Yohimbe, are known to cause the following side effects;
- Frequent urination
- Irregular or fast heartbeat
- Headache and agitation
- Gastrointestinal disturbances
Although these remedies are safe with other drugs, a consultation with the doctor is still preferable before using these options.
Shockwave therapy for erectile dysfunction
The shock wave therapy uses low-intensity extracorporeal shock waves focused on the shaft of the penis to help erectile dysfunction.
How does it work?
The exact mechanism of action is still not fully understood. According to a hypothesis, the shock waves increase nitric oxide synthesis (NO). This molecule is involved in the achievement and maintenance of an erection.
Is it effective?
It is a novel method, and research on it is still in the initial phase to comment on its safety. A 2013 study published in the Therapeutic Advances in Urology noted that the shockwave treatment did improve erectile function without any severe side effects.
Does it have any side effects?
Being a new option on the table, little information is available about its side effects. However, it is known to be relatively safer and with minimal side effects. However, side effects may be found on further research.
Male sexual dysfunction affects a large number of men. The quest for more options to treat ED is still undergoing as the awareness of the side effects of traditional ED treatments is increasing. However, the treatment outcomes are mixed, and more studies are required to see their efficacy in improving erectile function.
However, most of the methods are in the initial phase of trials, and detailed information is lacking. However, these alternatives have few side effects and may be more useful in future.
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