Erectile dysfunction is defined as an ongoing and frequent problem with developing and/or maintaining an erection that is long and strong enough to have sexual intercourse. A reduced libido may also be an accompanying symptom of this condition. Erectile dysfunction is quite common among men, particularly older men. Most men these days have seen commercials for drugs that “cure” erectile dysfunction, and they may be tempted to just obtain some pills from a shady source to treat the condition, but it is important to be fully evaluated by a qualified professional to determine the causes and best treatment approach for each individual case of erectile dysfunction. Look no further than our team at Orchidia Medical Group in Naples!
What are the Causes?
All cases of erectile dysfunction are due to a malfunction of blood flow to the penis, but the cause of the malfunction varies by individual. Many cases of erectile dysfunction are caused by an underlying medical condition, and treatment of the condition can improve the man’s health and cure the erectile dysfunction at the same time. This connection is very important to keep in mind before just buying some pills from an acquaintance because taking erectile dysfunction pills can cause serious health problems, heart attacks, and even death if there are certain underlying medical problems or particular medications are being taken. Common treatable medical causes of erectile dysfunction include sleep apnea, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, certain prescription medications, excessive drinking and smoking, and scar tissue that has formed in the penis (Peyronie’s disease). Psychological problems can also lead to erectile dysfunction, such as chronic stress and anxiety, clinical depression, and relationship problems; these conditions can often be treated with counseling, therapy, and lifestyle changes, or in some cases, medication in addition to behavioral approaches.
A Note About Medication
There are several oral drugs available to treat erectile dysfunction. They all act in a similar fashion via enhancing the action of nitric oxide, which causes the blood vessels in the penis to relax and allows them to fill with blood in response to sexual stimulation, possibly leading to an erection. These drugs do not automatically cause an erection and just enable sexual stimulation and feelings to trigger an erection to occur. The different available drugs have different dosing regimens and time periods during which they are effective after consumption. They all have side effects such as headache, flushing, nasal congestion, back pain, stomach upset, visual alterations, and a risk of priapism. They do not work for all men, especially men with uncontrolled diabetes, and can be dangerous to take if certain health conditions are present or certain medications are being taken. For example, men with heart disease can suffer heart attacks if they take these drugs. There are other alternative treatments for erectile dysfunction, some of which are described below.
Some men seem to develop erectile dysfunction in response to waning testosterone levels caused by aging. It is normal for men to experience a peak in testosterone during adolescence and early adulthood and then have it gradually decline thereafter. Some men experience greater declines than others, and some seem to suffer more from a relatively normal decline in testosterone. In addition to difficulties in getting and maintaining erections, these men often suffer from a reduced libido, depression, and difficulty with memory and attention span. Testosterone replacement can relieve these symptoms. Generally speaking, it can be given as injections, patches, gels, or pellets after a blood test to evaluate testosterone levels and to determine the appropriate dose to administer for replacement therapy.
Testosterone pellets seem to be a particularly effective and convenient treatment for men suffering from erectile dysfunction linked to low testosterone levels. The pellets are about the size of a grain of rice and are composed of crystallized testosterone. The medical professional simply implants one or more (depending on the dose needed to restore testosterone levels to normal) under the skin. The procedure is simple and only takes seconds or minutes. Once placed, the pellets release a steady and slow dose of testosterone for multiple months before new pellets need to be placed. It may take weeks after first placing the pellets for an effect to be seen because the body needs to heal and adapt to the changes in hormone levels. Before replacing the pellets, a blood test is needed to ensure that the dose doesn’t need to be adjusted.
GAINSWave® is a relatively new treatment for erectile dysfunction. It uses safe high intensity sound waves to improve blood flow to the penis. It acts to open the blood vessels, break up plaque, and stimulate the growth of new blood vessels. It seems to be particularly effective in treating men with erectile dysfunction caused by arteriosclerosis, diabetes, and heart disease, the same group of men who don’t usually respond well or safely to oral medications for the condition. It can also treat Peyronie’s disease, another condition that does not respond to oral erectile dysfunction medications.
The actual treatment is straightforward; first, a numbing cream is applied to the penis. After it takes effect, in the comfort of our office, the GAINSWave® device is used to apply the non-invasive treatment, which typically takes just minutes. The patient can immediately return to work or other normal activities after the treatment; there is no set downtime. A typical treatment consists of a series of sessions given on a regular schedule. Some men report the treatment is effective within 24 hours after completion of the course, but it can take multiple weeks to months for the process to restore normal blood flow to the penis. The effects last for up to two years, and the company reports that 75% of treated men are very satisfied with the results.
The P-Shot is yet another method used to rejuvenate and restore the tissues of the penis. First, a blood sample is taken from the patient, and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is separated from the blood cells in a simple, quick, in-office procedure. PRP is full of growth factors and cytokines that stimulate healing and rejuvenation of treated tissues. PRP has been used for decades to help heal surgical sites and chronic injuries and to induce rejuvenation of aging tissues, such as hair follicles, the skin of the face, and yes, the penis. The penis is first numbed to ensure that no discomfort is felt during the procedure. Then, the PRP is injected into various sites along the penis. Additional techniques may be used to assist the PRP in migrating into the tissues, where it goes to work. The entire procedure typically takes just minutes, including the time spent for preparation of the PRP. Although there is no set downtime, some additional steps may need to be followed after the procedure to produce the best effects. Most men begin to see results within weeks, and final results are typically experienced in the months post-procedure. Results can last for quite a while before a touch-up procedure is required.
The Downsides of DIY Penis Injections and Penis Pumps
Several different drugs claim to produce an erection in some men if injected into the base of the penis. A tiny needle is used to minimize discomfort and the drugs usually produce an erection that lasts about an hour. A variation of this method is to use a special device to deliver the drugs via the urethral opening. It’s important to stay away from these types of penis injections, as professional treatment is always better and safer than a do-it-yourself approach.
An external penis pump is placed over the penis and uses a vacuum to pull blood into the penis, creating an erection. Then, a ring is placed over the base of the penis to trap the blood in the penis, allowing for sexual intercourse to occur. The ring needs to be removed after sex to allow the blood to drain out. An internal penis pump involves surgically placing implants in the penis that can be inflated to create an erection. Whether external or internal, penis pumps are usually only suggested as a last resort if all other treatments fail.
Learn More From the Experts
If you or your loved one are unhappy with sexual performance because of what seems to be a case of erectile dysfunction, do not hesitate to reach out to Orchidia Medical Group for an evaluation, diagnosis, and recommendations for possible treatments. If there is an underlying medical condition, being evaluated for erectile dysfunction could, in addition to improving sexual performance, improve overall health or even save the man’s life. Our office is conveniently located in Naples. Contact us today to book your consultation and get started!