Penis Pumps: Guide to Penis Pumps & Use for Sexual Health & Performance

June 11, 2019

Erectile Dysfunction

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What do penis pumps do, exactly? Penis pumps claim to be the solution for a variety of sexual health and performance factors. Whether you are interested in increasing the size of your penis, addressing erectile dysfunction, or simply want harder and longer lasting erections – someone, somewhere, will tell you that a penis pump is an answer to all of your concerns.

Separating fact from fiction though — especially online — can prove to be quite the challenge. Our editorial board, responsible for the following content, includes 15+ experts with decades of experience in prostate health, men’s sexual health and a variety of other topics including sexual performance and well-being.

Table of Contents

 

Common Questions Men Have About Penis Pumps:

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Penis Pumps Buyer’s Guide

Penis Pumps & Prostate Health

Penis Pumps & Peyronie’s Disease

Article Sources & References

About the Author & Editor: Larry Lipshultz, MD

 


Common Questions Men Have About Penis Pumps


What are Penis Pumps?

Penis pumps are hollow tube devices paired with a battery-powered, hand-powered or electronic vacuum pump. The device is placed over the penis and during use, it applies pressure in the form of suction to the penis. This suction is focused on the erectile structure of the penis.
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How Do Penis Pumps Work?

Using the device as it is intended results variable suction pressures being applied to a man’s penis. Penis pump manufacturers claim that the use of a penis pump will improve the flow of blood into the erection tissues, resulting in an erect penis.
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Are Penis Pumps Safe?

No, not all penis pumps are safe for use. There are thousands of penis pumps available for purchase through a variety of offline and online retailers. The medical professionals behind prostate.net can only recommend the use of instruments that have been approved by the FDA.

As a warning to potential buyers, our research has found that many penis pumps are being sold over the Internet, through the mail, and in adult boutique stores that are being labeled as “penis developers.” While some of these devices may, in time, earn FDA approval – the dangers of using an unapproved device must be understood.

Unapproved penis pumps (and similar devices) may expose the penis to excessive suction pressures that can cause injury and tissue damage. Only penis pumps that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should be used because they apply a level of safely limited pressure.
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What are Penis Pumps Used For?

Penis pumps are primarily used for the effective treatment of erectile dysfunction, especially if the patient has not positively responded to other treatments for erectile dysfunction.

Most men who use a penis pump can achieve an erection sufficient for sexual performance.

Men who have undergone a prostatectomy may also use a penis pump to help maintain the length of their penis, or to preserve erectile functions.
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What are the Side Effects of Using Penis Pumps?

The risk of developing side effects during or after the use of a penis pump is relatively low. Provided that you have an FDA approved penis pump or device, it is recommended that you review all materials provided by the manufacturer and consult with your doctor before use.
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Do Penis Pumps Improve Erections?

Penis pumps have been proven to be an effective treatment for erectile dysfunction, maintaining penis length after prostatectomy, stronger erections and to preserve erectile function even among men who have not had prostate cancer treatment.

The efficacy of using a penis pump is straightforward; A penis pump improves oxygenation of penile tissues and enhances blood flow to the penis, therefore reducing the chances for cavernosal fibrosis (abnormal fibrous tissue in the penis) to form.
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Can A Penis Pump Increase Penis Length and Size?

For many men, lengthening their penis is a motivating factor for considering penis pumps and similar devices.

The good news is that with use, your penis will likely increase in length and girth. The bad news is that these increases only temporary, so these devices should not be considered for long term use or solutions to larger issues that require medical consultation.

Some men who use a penis pump regularly (three to five times a week for at least 20 minutes claim that they can maintain greater penis length. However, if they stop using the penis pump for a few days, their penis returns to its previous size, as it was before the penis pump.
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Who Should Use a Penis Pump?

Penis pumps and similar vacuum constriction devices are helpful for men with erectile dysfunction caused by many conditions, including diabetes, poor blood flow to the penis, prostate or colon cancer surgery, depression, or anxiety.

You should not consider a penis pump if you have a congenital blood disorder, leukemia, sickle cell anemia, or other blood condition.

In all circumstances, men should consult with their primary care physician or another medical professional familiar with their history before beginning the use of a penis pump or constriction device.

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Are Penis Pumps a Safe Alternative to Erectile Dysfunction Medications?

Men who prefer to avoid using erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs or are unable to tolerate them may want to consider the use of a penis pump. A 2013 review of penis pumps (and all Vacuum Erection Devices, or VEDs) found a resurgence in their use in recent years.

Choosing penis pumps to address erectile dysfunction is an increasingly common situation for men, and these devices are often the tool of choice for men looking to maintain the length and size of the penis.

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What are the Pros and Cons of Penis Pumps?

The main benefit of vacuum erection devices is that they are effective, with 80 to 90 percent of men who use them achieving an erection with up to 80 percent rigidity. These devices are easy to use and safe, and men have reported a significant improvement in sexual satisfaction when using them.

Younger and middle-aged men, however, are less likely to use them because they typically engage in more frequent sexual intercourse and find the use of the vacuum device to be less spontaneous, as it takes 10 to 20 minutes to achieve an erection. The constriction ring needs to be very tight on many men in order to maintain the erection, and this can be painful. In addition, the erection men achieve using a vacuum pump is less aesthetically pleasing than one that occurs using other methods. This is because the blood that is drawn into the penis when using the vacuum is mostly from the veins and has low levels of oxygen, which makes the penis bluish or gray rather than pink. The erection also is cooler in temperature than one that is obtained “normally,” because the blood in the penis is mainly from the veins, not the arteries, which is warmer.
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What are the Benefits of Using Penis Pumps?

Perhaps more important, however, are the benefits you can get from a penis pump, which include supporting penile tissue health and maintaining penis length and size after prostatectomy (prostate surgery). But the use of a penis pump isn’t limited to men who have had a prostatectomy: Some men also find that using a penis pump helps them maintain penis size and length as their nighttime erections (nocturnal erections) decline in number or if they want to help improve their erections.

If any of these scenarios describe you, then you could benefit from using a penis pump. Here’s how the penis pump (also known as a vacuum erection device [VED] or vacuum constriction device) works.

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Can Penis Pumps Be Used with Erectile Dysfunction Drugs?

As always, it is best to consult with your physician before using any penis pump or vacuum erection device.

Men who combined the use of a penis pump and tadalafil (Cialis) after prostatectomy also found that the combination helped them preserve penis length and erection function.

After undergoing nerve-sparing radical prostatectomy, seven men received tadalafil (20 mg three times weekly) only, while 13 men took tadalafil plus the use of a penis pump (10 minutes daily for at least 5 days weekly). The men started treatments one month after surgery and had clinic visits at 1, 3, 6, 9, and 12 months. Before each visit, the men were asked to attempt intercourse at least twice.

Men who took tadalafil and used the penis pump had significantly greater scores for penile hardness and on the International Index of Erectile Function than did men in the tadalafil-only group. After 12 months, 92% of men in the penis pump group were able to achieve intercourse to an orgasm compared with only 29% in the tadalafil-only group. (Source: Engel 2011)
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Penis Pumps Buyer’s Guide


Selecting & Buying Penis Pumps

Penis pumps are available both by prescription and over the counter. Discuss your purchase with your physician to ensure you get a model that suits your needs. Some penis pumps can be purchased through the internet and magazine ads, but they may not be safe or effective.

Here are a few other buying tips:

  • Buy a pump that has a vacuum limiter or a pressure gauge, which allows you to monitor the amount of pressure inside the tube.
  • Choose a pump that has a transparent tube so you can make sure your penis does not become irritated or discolored during the pumping process
  • Select a penis pump with a tube that fits your penis. Take measurements of your penis when flaccid and erect and compare them with the size recommendations provided by the manufacturer.
  • Buy a pump for your needs. Some pumps are designed to be used in the shower or bath only, while others can be used only in dry conditions. Those for the bath are hydro pumps, and these manual pumps involve having water in the cylinder while you increase the pressure.

Note: The choice between manual and battery-operated is a personal choice. If you have limited use of your hands, you may want a battery-operated model.
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Using Penis Pumps

A penis pump is a device designed to help men treat erectile dysfunction or to manage the curvature of the penis associated with Peyronie’s disease. It is a drug-free, injection-free treatment option, but before running out and buying one, men should properly understand how to use a penis pump.

Although there are three main types of penis pumps (manual, battery-operated, and hydro) they work in the same general way. That is, they consist of a plastic cylindrical tube that is placed over the penis, and a vacuum is created by engaging the pump. As the air pressure inside the tube decreases, the penile tissue begins to swell with blood and the penis becomes erect.

When using a penis pump…

  • Place the cylindrical tube over your penis
  • Some men use a lubricant to avoid any possible irritation
  • Turn on the pump or manually use the pump to create a vacuum inside the tube. If you are using a hydro pump, you will first make sure there is water in the cylinder
  • Follow the manufacturer or your doctor’s instructions on controlling the air pressure inside the tube. Don’t allow the pressure to exceed 4.5 inches of mercury because you can damage your penis.
  • Use a dry penis pump for no more than 10 minutes, especially when you are a beginner (see “Caveats). At that time, release the pressure and allow blood to flow to the penis.
  • When operating a hydro pump, squeeze the handball or push the pump toward your pelvic bone several times to create a vacuum, wait a minute, and then pump again. Remove the cylinder and massage your penis. Repeat this cycle three to five time for no more than 15 minutes.
  • After removing the penis pump cylinder, you can use a penis ring (aka, cock ring) to help maintain your erection for intercourse. Never leave a penis ring on for more than 30 minutes.

Caveats about using a penis pump

  • Begin slowly and don’t overpower the pump. Overzealous pumping can damage your penile tissue and won’t result in any “bigger” or faster results
  • Take breaks. With a dry pump, release the air pressure every 10 to 15 minutes, with each break lasting 3 to 5 minutes. During breaks, massage or stretch your penis to improve blood flow.
  • Beginners should use a penis pump two to three times a week and then gradually increase to once daily if desired
  • Some men shave their pubic hair to help ensure a tighter seal on the cylinder against the body
  • Massage your penis after each pumping session

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Penis Pumps & Prostate Health


Many men and many of our readers here on Prostate.net are concerned about sexual performance following the diagnosis, treatment, and experience of prostate health concerns.

In fact, men who have undergone a prostatectomy often report a variety of side effects to their penis or sexual performance.

Many prostatectomy patients find that their penis begins to shrink (both in terms of circumference and length) following their medical procedures. This penile shrinkage tends to worsen over time. For these patients, penis pumps and vacuum pump therapy has been shown to help maintain preoperative penis size.

In a clinical study, 63 percent of patients who did not use a vacuum erection device after a prostatectomy suffered from penis shrinkage when compared to the 23 percent of routinely using a vacuum erection device.

Other clinical studies have reported early sexual function, penile length preservation, and high satisfaction rates among men who routinely used a penis vacuum pump after prostate surgery.
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Penis Damage & Problems Resulting from Prostate Cancer Surgery

Damage to vital penile nerves during prostate cancer surgery often leads to neuropraxia, or the interruption of nerve impulse transmission. This form of temporary erectile dysfunction is reported by about 70 percent of patients.

Research has found that it can take about six to 24 months after prostate surgery for the full recovery of erectile function to take place. During that time of neuropraxia, men are also unable to experience nighttime erections.

The lack of natural erections results in cavernosal hypoxia, the lack of oxygen to the penile smooth muscle. Cavernosal hypoxia has been implicated as one of the most important factors in the pathophysiology of erectile dysfunction. Men who have cavernosal hypoxia can develop cavernosal fibrosis, which ultimately leads to a loss of blood from the penis and can then result in long-term erectile dysfunction.

To help prevent this from happening, more and more doctors support the use of a prophylactic penile rehabilitation program that includes the use of penis pumps/VED after prostate cancer surgery.

These programs are designed to improve the delivery of oxygen to the penile erectile tissues and thus preserve the tissue, minimize the damage that otherwise occurs during the period of neuropraxia, and potentially increase the likelihood of preserving erectile function. For this reason, the use of penis pumps/VED is one of several treatments considered as part of a penile rehabilitation program.
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Penis Pump after Prostate Surgery (Prostatectomy)

One of the side effects of radical prostatectomy (prostate surgery) that men don’t hear much about is a reduction in penis length, which occurs in about half of men who have the surgery. The loss of penis length and size, along with erectile dysfunction, which is also common among men who have a prostatectomy, can be a real blow for men recovering from prostate cancer surgery.

One effective way to maintain penis length and size after prostatectomy is to use a penis pump soon after surgery. The success of this approach has been demonstrated in a number of penis pump studies.

  • One study involved 42 men who had good sexual function before they underwent nerve-sparing radical prostatectomy. The day after the men had their catheters removed, they began daily use of a penis pump for 90 days. Thirty-six men used the penis pump more than 50 percent of the 90 days, and only one of those men had a decrease in penis length of 1.0 centimeter or more. When you compare these results with previous research, in which 48 percent of men had a significant reduction in penis length after prostatectomy, it appears that use of a penis pump soon after surgery is an effective way to preserve penis length. (Source: Dalkin 2007)
  • Similar positive results were also seen in another study. This one involved 28 men who were randomly assigned to use a penis pump at either one month (17 men, group 1) or six months (11 men, group 2) after undergoing nerve-sparing radical prostatectomy. Men in group 1 used the penis pump 10 minutes daily for 5 months without a constriction ring. After three months, penis length had decreased by about 2 centimeters in men in group 2 but was preserved in group 1 in all men. At 12 months, only 2 of the 17 men in group 1 had a loss of penis length 2 centimeters or greater compared with 5 of 11 men in group 2. Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that using a penis pump within one month after radical prostatectomy helps to preserve penis length. (Source: Kohler 2007)
  • At Cleveland Clinic Foundation, 141 men were offered various non-oral treatment options, including a penis pump, to prevent erectile dysfunction after radical prostatectomy. At 5 years, 62% of the men were sexually active, and nearly 60% of them had used a penis pump as an early treatment after prostatectomy. (Source: Raina 2010)

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Penis Pumps & Peyronie’s Disease

The penis pump for Peyronie’s disease is a medical device used primarily by men to help them achieve an erection. The device consists of a hollow tube that fits over the penis and a vacuum pump that removes air from the tube. The process of removing air from the cylinder causes blood to be drawn into the penis, resulting in an erection.

For men who have Peyronie’s disease, the tension on the penis created by the vacuum may trigger the plaque in the penis to break down or be reconstructed, which can then lead to a reduction in penile curvature.

Men with Peyronie’s disease who also experience erectile dysfunction are likely to notice an improvement in erectile function as well when using a penis pump.
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Studies of Penis Pumps & Peyronie’s Disease Treatment

Few studies have looked at the effect of using a penis pump for Peyronie’s disease. A study conducted in England evaluated the use of a penis pump in 31 men who had had Peyronie’s disease for less than one year. Over a 12-week period, the men used the pump for 10 minutes twice a day. Treatment resulted in a significant improvement in penile length, pain, and penile curvature. Specifically, penile curvature improved 5 to 25 degrees in 21 men, got worse in three men, and did not change in seven. (Source: Raheem 2010)

In an unpublished report, 12 men used a penis pump for Peyronie’s disease for an undisclosed amount of time. Four noted a significant improvement in penile curvature, two had slight improvement, and the remaining six reported no clear benefit. The author suggested a vacuum pump may work better if other treatments, such as colchicine or injection therapies, were used simultaneously. (Leslie 2001)
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Using Penis Pumps for Peyronie’s Disease Treatment

Men with Peyronie’s disease should use a penis pump only if their condition is stable (has not changed in at least 3 months) and their penile curvature is not severe. Your doctor can make that decision. Each treatment should take about 10 minutes: apply the vacuum and maintain it for 3 minutes, then release and repeat two more times. Two sessions per day is suggested, and treatment should continue for several months.
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Side Effects of Penis Pump for Peyronie’s Disease Treatment

Side effects of using a penis pump include bruising of the penis, pain, and breakdown of the skin of the penis. Some men experience less forceful ejaculation and/or temporary numbness of the penis.
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Article Sources & References


  • Dalkin BL, Christopher BA. Preservation of penile length after radical prostatectomy: early intervention with a vacuum erection device. Int J Impot Res 2007 Sep-Oct; 19(5): 501-4
  • Engel JD. Effect on sexual function of a vacuum erection device post-prostatectomy. Can J Urol 2011 Jun; 18(3): 5721-25
  • Kohler TS et al. A pilot study on the early use of the vacuum erection device after radical retropubic prostatectomy. BJU Int 2007 Oct; 100(4): 858-62
  • Raina R et al. Long-term potency after early use of a vacuum erection device following radical prostatectomy. BJU Int 2010 Dec; 106(11): 1719-22
  • Yuan J et al Vacuum therapy in erectile dysfunction—science and clinical evidence. Int J Impot Res 2010 Jul-Aug; 22(4): 211-19
  • Brison D et al. The resurgence of the vacuum erection device (VED) for treatment of erectile dysfunction. Journal of Sexual Medicine 2013 Apr; 10(4): 1124-35
  • Leslie S. Use of external vacuum devices in Peyronie’s disease. Personal communication, unpublished data, 2001. Penis Pump for Peyronie’s Disease
  • Raheem AA et al. The role of vacuum pump therapy to mechanically straighten the penis in Peyronie’s disease. BJU Int 2010 Oct; 106(8): 1178-80

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About the Author & Editor: Larry Lipshultz, MD


Editor: Larry Lipshultz, MD

This content has been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Larry Lipshultz, one of Prostate.net’s featured experts serving on our editorial board.

Dr. Lipshultz is Professor of Urology and Chief of the Division of Male Reproductive Medicine and Surgery at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. He is an internationally acclaimed fertility specialist and a pioneer in the field of urologic microsurgery, specializing in male infertility, erectile dysfunction, microsurgery, genetic causes of infertility, and age-related changes in male hormone levels (androgen replacement).

Dr. Lipshultz was a founder of the Society for the Study of Male Reproduction and is a Past President of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. In addition, he has served on the FDA Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs.

Dr. Lipshultz was the first AUA Research scholar and was awarded the prestigious Hugh Hampton Young Award at the 2005 AUA Annual Meeting.
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