ERECTIONS ∙ 6 minutes read

Does an erectile dysfunction cure exist? Here are 8 treatments to choose from

By Ashton Sheriff and Duncan Fisher | Medically reviewed by Dr Jaskirt Matharu

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a delicate subject to discuss for most men, with many constantly looking for a permanent cure and asking themselves if one is even possible.

Thankfully, there are a few things you can try to improve your erections. Some erectile dysfunction treatments are more effective than others, so we’ve compiled a list of erectile dysfunction treatment options to help you decide which is best for you and your lifestyle.  

Can erectile dysfunction be cured?

Whether erectile dysfunction can be cured or not depends on the cause of your ED. In many cases, erectile dysfunction symptoms can be reversed with specific erectile dysfunction treatments as well as by making certain lifestyle changes

For example, drinking too much alcohol, smoking, or taking recreational drugs can all interfere with your erections and cause erectile dysfunction. Reducing the number of times you indulge in these activities - or cutting them out entirely - can help to reverse erectile dysfunction symptoms if they’re getting in the way of your sex life.  

However, erectile dysfunction caused by other factors such as surgery or disease can be trickier (or in some cases impossible) to cure. Men who have had prostate surgery may find it difficult or impossible to achieve an erection if the nerves surrounding the prostate were severed during surgery. 

Likewise, a disease called atherosclerosis can cause erectile dysfunction by restricting blood flow to the penis. 

Atherosclerosis occurs when your blood vessels become clogged by fatty plaque. This can impede the flow of blood around your body, resulting in erectile dysfunction as well as more severe conditions such as heart disease and stroke. Treating erectile dysfunction in someone with atherosclerosis is therefore likely to be trickier than in someone without it. 

When exploring the range of erectile dysfunction treatment options available to you, it’s crucial that you first figure out what the underlying cause of your ED is. A doctor can help you with this and can run checks for any medical conditions you may have that could be causing your problem. 

What if my ED is caused by performance anxiety (mental health)?

Performance anxiety - the fear of not being able to sexually satisfy your partner - is a leading cause of sexual dysfunction in men. 

If the cause of your erectile dysfunction is mental rather than physiological, it’s possible to treat this type of ED with therapy as well as appropriate erectile dysfunction treatments. 

Therapy is likely to be an ideal first line of treatment if you’re experiencing erection problems related to anxiety, depression, or another mental health condition. If you have stress-related erectile dysfunction, studies have shown that sex therapy can resolve the problem 50%–70% of the time. It’s worth noting that sex therapy is most effective when your partner is involved in the therapy.

ED treatments such as sildenafil have also been found effective in treating psychogenic ED (i.e. mental health-related ED). On top of this, they can significantly improve self-esteem, confidence, sexual relationship satisfaction, which can all have a physical impact on your ability to get an erection. 

But as effective as ED tablets are, they aren’t the only way to treat erection dysfunction. There are also other treatment options that can help, so keep reading to find out what they are.

Current erectile dysfunction treatment options

After investigating the root cause of your erectile dysfunction, there are a variety of erectile dysfunction treatments you can use to reduce erectile dysfunction symptoms. 

Below are some of the most well-known options. 

PDE5 inhibitor drugs (erection pills)

PDE5 inhibitors are one of the most popular erectile dysfunction treatments available. The most famous example of a PDE5 inhibitor is Viagra, but PDE5 inhibitors also come in other clinically proven forms such as sildenafil and tadalafil

They’re small ED tablets that are taken before sex to stimulate stronger erections. They make erections harder by increasing the flow of blood to your penis, allowing you to fully enjoy sex and intimacy with your partner. 

Each PDE5 inhibitor lasts for a different amount of time. Sildenafil lasts for four hours, tadalafil lasts for 36, and Tadalafil Daily lasts continuously (provided you take one tablet a day). 

Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that you’ll have a permanent erection for hours on end if you take an ED tablet. It just means that you should be able to get an erection when you need one during the time it’s active in your system.  

Vacuum pumps (penis pumps)

A vacuum pump (also known as a penis pump) is a clear plastic tube that slips over your penis to create an erection by sucking the air out of the tube. The vacuum created inside the chamber draws blood into the penis and causes it to expand and harden.

Though they are a bit cumbersome, they are the most commonly promoted non-medical ED aid. They may be suitable for men who are unable to use erectile dysfunction medicine for medical reasons.

Direct injections (alprostadil)

It’s possible to get penile injections (the applicator needle is very small), of a drug called alprostadil. Your doctor or clinical nurse normally shows you how it works, and after that, you can do it yourself. Alprostadil usually takes 5 to 10 minutes to kick in and it’s recommended that you try to have sex 10 to 30 minutes after injecting it. 

Urethral suppositories (alprostadil)

Alprostadil can also be inserted in the form of tiny pellets into your urethra (the tube that carries urine and sperm out of the body). Some people prefer taking alprostadil this way rather than via an injection, however this method is less effective than injecting it directly into the penis. The most common side effect of taking alprostadil suppositories is pain in the penis or urethra. It’s also advised that you wear a condom if you have sex after taking an alprostadil suppository to avoid exposing your partner to it. 

Topical cream (alprostadil)

If taking injections or suppositories don’t float your boat, alprostadil is also available as a topical cream, that you can put on your penis to generate an erection. It works in a slightly different way to PDE5 inhibitors and can trigger an erection without any stimulation from your partner. 

Penile prostheses (penis implant)

Some men do not respond, or cease responding, to PDE5 inhibitors and drugs like alprostadil. As an alternative, there is such a thing as a penile prosthesis implant - known more commonly as a penis implant. 

There are two main types of penis implant: inflatable and non-inflatable. Inflatable penis pumps work when you squeeze a pump to fill the implant with saline solution (salty water). This generates an erection similar to the one you’d get without an implant. 

Non-inflatable penis implants are less common. They are semi-rigid rods that are placed into the penis that can be bent into shape to create an erection. They are always hard, so if an erection is no longer needed, the penis must be bent back and downwards towards the body. 

Despite how extreme the surgery sounds, it’s regarded as effective and safe. However, like any surgery, it comes with the risk of complications and men who get it must be very careful to avoid infection. 

Future treatments

If the current crop of erectile dysfunction treatments isn’t offering a solution that works best for you, then don’t lose hope just yet. The future is bright, and there are some promising treatments on the horizon. 

Stem cell transplant

Stem cell therapy for erectile dysfunction is an emerging line of treatment that is showing great potential to treat ED.

Stem cells are special cells found in the human body that are capable of developing into almost any type of cell. These unique cells have been used in a new therapy to restore erectile function in men who had severe ED as a result of prostate removal surgery (prostatectomy). 

This is a particularly important advancement in the world of erectile dysfunction treatments because many men who have prostate removal surgery find it difficult (or impossible) to get an erection afterwards - including the men who the new therapy was tried on. 

There is still more research and further exploration to be had with stem cell therapy, but the initial results will no doubt help to pave the way for more effective stem cell ED treatments in the future. 

Low-intensity shock waves

Another emerging treatment is low-intensity shockwave therapy (lithotripsy), a procedure that involves using a small handheld probe to stimulate the penis with sound waves. 

How exactly it works to improve erections is not yet known, but it’s thought to encourage blood flow to the penis and it may even be able to generate new blood vessels via a process called neovascularization. 

Early studies have shown it to be effective in treating erectile dysfunction in men with mild to moderate ED. There were also no side effects reported during and after treatment. However, more investigation is needed to corroborate the findings of this study and validate it as an effective erectile dysfunction treatment. 

The bottom line

The erectile dysfunction treatment that’s best for you will depend on the root cause of your ED. Therefore, while there might not be a “one-size-fits-all” erectile dysfunction cure for everyone, there are many erectile dysfunction treatments to choose from that can help significantly. 

Erectile dysfunction medication like sildenafil is many men’s first choice when it comes to treating ED. However, there are other erectile dysfunction treatment options available such as penis pumps and alprostadil injections that may also be beneficial. 

Whichever erectile dysfunction treatment you choose, it’s important to find out what the cause of your ED is so you know which treatment is likely to be most effective. This can be done with the help of your doctor. Once you know, you can begin to take control of your health safely and effectively with the appropriate erectile dysfunction treatment. 

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