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Treating Erectile Dysfunction: 9 Solutions for ED

Treating Erectile Dysfunction: 9 Solutions for ED

Are you experiencing erection problems? Whether you're 25 or nearing old age, you're not alone. 20 million American men are affected by erectile dysfunction, also known as ED.

Since 1998, the number of men diagnosed with erectile dysfunction has increased by 250%, and it affects men of all ages.

Whether you're having trouble getting an erection, keeping an erection, or having an orgasm, certain supplements, medications, and lifestyle changes can help get you back on track. But these cures have varying degrees of effectiveness and benefits-- it's important to know what you're getting into.

Let's get into some of the solutions for ED-- what works, what doesn't, and how these treatments can work for you.

What is Erectile Dysfunction (ED)?

ED is the consistent inability to achieve or sustain an erection for sexual intercourse. Even though sexual activity can decline with age, ED is not an inevitable part of the aging process. If you're physically and emotionally healthy, you should be able to produce erections and enjoy sexual intercourse.

ED isn't an occasional failure to produce an erection. It's perfectly normal to experience occasional difficulties, especially as you're getting older. Other factors can play into it as well, including illness, alcohol, stress, or fatigue.

It also isn't a decrease in sex drive. While low libido is also caused by low levels of testosterone, it's an unrelated issue. ED may be accompanied by a diminished sex drive, but it's treated in a different way.

Erectile dysfunction is the inability to maintain an erection firm enough for intercourse. If this is an ongoing issue, it can affect your self-confidence, your levels of stress, and your relationships. It can also be a sign of an underlying health condition that needs treatment.

What Can Cause ED?

When you become aroused, certain nerves fire in your brain. Blood then flows to the penis. If all goes well, this then allows you to engage in sexual intercourse.

But sometimes, things don't go well. What leads to erectile dysfunction?

In some cases, physical factors can lead to ED. These can include consuming alcohol, taking drugs, experiencing high stress, or sleep deprivation.

In other cases, diseases can lead to ED. These include:

  • Diabetes. With diabetes, nerves and blood vessels that aid in getting blood to your penis may be damaged

  • Kidney disease. This can affect your hormones, block blood flow to the penis, and lower your sex drive

  • Blood vessel disease.Any disease--including blocked arteries, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol--that affects your blood flow can make it hard for your body to prepare for sex

  • Brain and nerve disorders.Any disorders that affect the nervous system--including stroke, Alzheimer's disease, and multiple sclerosis--can disrupt important signals

Other reasons for ED can include:

  • Hormone problems. Hormones fuel your sex drive and are vital in controlling necessary functions like blood flow

  • Surgery.In some cases, surgery to your pelvis, bladder, spinal cord, or penis can affect the nerves and tissue needed for an erection

  • Venous leak. This can cause the blood to flow too quickly out of your penis--which lead to the early loss of an erection

  • Prescription drugs. Over 200 prescription drugs have erectile dysfunction as a side effect

  • Prostate enlargement: This is a normal part of aging for many men--but it can play a role in maintaining an erection

Lastly, you might experience psychological causes for ED. The brain plays a key role in triggering some of the physical changes that cause an erection, including the feeling of sexual excitement.

Psychological effects can interfere with sexual feelings and even physically alter the way your body produces an erection. These include:

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Stress

  • Relationship problems

Erections form out of a complex sexual process. It involves the brain, hormones, nerves, and blood vessels.

Erectile dysfunction can involve any one of these factors--and often several at once. For example, a physical condition that might slow your sexual response can lead to anxiety about maintaining an erection for sex. This anxiety then acts upon the physical interference and worsens it.

What Are the Complications of ED?

Erectile dysfunction can be stressful--but it can also hint to a more serious underlying condition. It's important to take any instance of erectile dysfunction seriously.

Some of the complications resulting from ED can include:

  • Stress or anxiety

  • Reduced sex life

  • Lack of sexual satisfaction

  • Embarrassment or low self-confidence

  • Relationship problems

  • The inability to conceive a child

Treating Erectile Dysfunction: 9 Solutions for ED

Erectile dysfunction can be frustrating, but it's easily treated. If you experience problems achieving or maintaining an erection for a period longer than three or four weeks, you may have ED.

Be sure you don't delay-ED doesn't just go away. It could even be a sign of a more serious, even life-threatening condition like heart failure or kidney disease.

Here are nine of the most common and successful treatments for ED.

1. Sildenafil

Sildenafil is better known by its brand name: Viagra. It's one of the most common and widely used ED treatments that are on the market today.

While Sildenafil is most commonly used to treat ED, it was originally developed as a high blood pressure medication. This helps make it effective for ED--it increases the blood flow to the penis and lasts for several hours.

It works within about a half hour to an hour of consumption and lasts for up to five hours. Doses usually range from 20 to 50mg, with higher doses available for those who don't respond to the lower dose pills.

It doesn't cure erectile dysfunction--and it can't increase your sexual desire. But it's an easy, effective way to develop and maintain an erection whenever you need to.

Potential side effects include:

  • Headache

  • Flushing in skin

  • Nosebleeds

  • Heartburn

  • Diarrhea

  • Mild insomnia

  • Numbness or tingling in hands and feet

  • Muscle aches

  • Sensitivity to light

In some rare cases, Sildenafil can lead to more harmful side effects. This includes a sudden loss of vision, ringing in ears, chest pain, or shortness of breath. If you experience any of these symptoms or if you are taking prescription medication, be sure to consult with a physician.

2. Tadalafil

Just like Sildenafil, Tadalafil is better known by its common name: Cialis. It's similar to Sildenafil, but longer-lasting and with slightly different effects.

It enhances the response to sexual stimulation by increasing blood flow to the penis. But unlike Sildenafil, Tadalafil can stay active in your system for up to 36 hours after you take it. It also starts working slightly faster than other ED medications, usually becoming active in approximately 30 minutes.

Some people prefer Tadalafil because of its long-lasting effects. A single dose can last for over a day, which means you won't need to take a pill directly before any sexual activity. A typical dose is around 10mg, with up to 50mg doses for those who don't respond to lower doses.
Potential side effects include:

  • Headache

  • Back pain

  • Changes in vision

  • Nausea

  • Flushing of skin

If you have a history of heart disease or if you're taking any other prescription medications, be sure to consult with a physician before taking Tadalafil.

3. PT-141

PT-141, also known as Bremelanotide, is a new type of drug that is delivered by injection or nasal spray. Instead of increasing blood flow to the penis like Sildenafil and Tadalafil, PT-141 acts directly on the brain.

While it's used for other purposes, like lowering blood pressure, it can also induce lordosis in your body. Lordosis is a sign of physical preparation for copulation. This is called 'heat' in some animals, and it reactivates the hormones that tell your body it's time for sex.

The drug targets the parts of the brain that regulate your sexual response, which can create feelings of arousal and naturally increase blood flow to the necessary areas.

While this works as a drug specifically for erectile dysfunction, it isn't just effective for men. It's proven to increase the sex drive and naturally trigger arousal in women as well.

Some side effects include gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea, and headaches. There is a slight risk of developing higher blood pressure. Overall, fewer side effects were reported than with the more mainstream drugs like Sildenafil and Tadalafil.

4. Yohimbe

Yohimbe is a natural supplement made from the bark of an African tree. It's been used for centuries as a way to dilate blood vessels. It also has an effect on the nerves, particularly those related to sexual function.

While it's not a prescription medication, it's a supplement that has shown to be effective in multiple studies. It can be a helpful supplement if you have trouble maintaining an erection, and it can also help induce arousal.

Side effects can include increased blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, and anxiety. Although it doesn't require a prescription, you should still talk to your doctor before deciding to use it--and be sure you buy it from a reputable company.

5. Cutting Back on Porn

In most cases, porn is a perfectly healthy and normal outlet for sexual feelings. But if part of your erectile dysfunction is that you struggle to produce an erection with a partner while you have no problem solo, porn could be a contributing factor.

Some types of porn perpetuate an unrealistic expectation of what sex should be like--and how you and your partner should look and perform.

Porn can produce a sense of inadequacy, as well as an anxiety about producing an erection and pleasing your partner. These expectations come from what you've seen on the internet.

While cutting back on porn can improve sexual function, it might be a good idea to try this option in conjunction with a more traditional medication or supplement.

6.More Sleep

Sleep deprivation can also contribute to your chances of developing erectile dysfunction.

Lack of sleep lowers levels of testosterone, which can impair your regular sexual function. It can also lead to an increase in your stress response. This causes your body to release stress hormones, which encourage your body to prioritize other functions over your sexual drive.

In this case, the fix can be simple. Try to get somewhere between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night, depending on how much sleep you need per night. You can also talk to a doctor about getting medication or supplements that might help you sleep.

Like the previous fix, it might be best to combine this with another treatment method.

7. Counseling

Most cases of ED have a physical cause. In some cases, however, there might be a strong psychological factor. Depression, guilt, fear, and anxiety can contribute to ED--and even make your issues even worse.

You can get an examination from a doctor to find out the root cause of your ED. If any of your challenges stem from psychological problems, your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist or sex therapist.

There's no shame in having a psychological element to your ED--and it can easily be treated. Getting to the root of your ED is the first step towards resolving it.

Finding Solutions for ED

If you're one of the millions of men across the U.S. experiencing erectile dysfunction, you have options.

Whether it's mainstream pills, supplements, experimental treatments, or lifestyle changes, there's always something you can do. Contact a doctor to see if any of these solutions for ED are right for you.

Are you looking for new treatments for erectile dysfunction and more? Check out our blog to learn more!

About the author

Dr. Constance Odom, MD

4 min read