Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get or keep an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse and affects as many as 30 million men in the United States. Fortunately ED is treatable and is treatable at any age.
Medications for treating ED can be taken orally, injected directly into the penis, or inserted into the urethra at the tip of the penis.
There are several available oral medications such as sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra), and tadalafil (Cialis). These medications belong to a class of drugs called phosphodiesterase (PDE) inhibitors and work by enhancing the effects of nitric oxide, which is a chemical that relaxes smooth muscles in the penis during sexual stimulation and allows increased blood flow. These medications should be taken by mouth an hour before sexual activity.
These medications are considered safe and effective in managing erectile dysfunction. However, men who take nitrate-based drugs such as nitroglycerin for heart problems should not use any of the medications listed, because the combination can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure.
In addition, men who take medications called alpha-blockers, which are used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or high blood pressure, in combination with medications for erectile dysfunction, can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure. With that being said, tell your doctor about all the medications you take, including prescription, non-prescription, and herbal supplements.
A small number of men have experienced vision or hearing loss after taking either sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra), and tadalafil (Cialis). If you experience vision or hearing loss, seek immediate medical attention.
While oral medicines improve the response to sexual stimulation, they do not trigger an automatic erection as injections do. Some men may require or prefer injections. However, these injections can cause unwanted side effects. Other treatments may include vacuum devices and surgically implanted devices. In rare cases, surgery involving veins or arteries may be considered.
Before starting treatment, your doctor will try to determine what may be causing erectile dysfunction. It may be an easy solution like stopping or replacing a medication that may be causing ED. ED can be a side effect of many medications such as blood pressure drugs, antihistamines, antidepressants, appetite suppressants, and cimetidine.
Most doctors suggest least invasive treatments first starting with lifestyle changes. Quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, losing excess weight, and increasing physical activity may all help some men regain sexual function.
Talk to your doctor if you think you have erectile dysfunction. He/she can determine the best treatment for you.