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ED Treatment Options

Penis Pumps For ED

penis pumps for ED

Medically reviewed by Dr. Larry Lipshultz M.D

If you prefer to avoid using ED drugs or you are unable to tolerate them, then you may want to consider trying a penis pump. In fact, a 2013 review of penis pump use (aka Vacuum Erection Devices, or VEDs) found a resurgence in their use. Penis pumps for ED are common devices used to maintain the length and size of the penis if you are not experiencing nighttime erections.

What Are Penis Pumps?

A penis pump is shaped like a hollow tube that has a battery or hand-powered or electronic pump. The vacuum pump is placed over the penis and it applies pressure to the organ, specifically the erection (erectile) structures. This in turn improves the flow of blood into the erection tissues, resulting in an erection. Once an erection has developed, a tension or constriction ring is placed around the base of the penis to help maintain the erection, and the penis vacuum pump is removed.

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It is important to not leave the tension ring on the penis for more than 30 minutes, because restricting blood flow for too long may injure the penis. If you choose a penis pump, make sure you get a model that has a vacuum limiter, which prevents the pressure from going too high and injuring the penis.

Who Is a Good Candidate for a Penis Pump for ED?

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

How Does a Penis Pump Help after Prostate Surgery?

Damage to vital penile nerves during prostate cancer surgery leads to neuropraxia (interruption of nerve impulse transmission), resulting in temporary erectile dysfunction for about 70 percent of patients. It can take about six to 24 months after prostate surgery for recovery of erectile function, and during that time of neuropraxia, men are unable to experience even nighttime erections. Thus the lack of natural erections results in cavernosal hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the penile smooth muscle). Cavernosal hypoxia has been implicated as one of the most important factors in the pathophysiology of ED. Men who have cavernosal hypoxia can develop cavernosal fibrosis, which ultimately leads to a loss of blood from the penis and 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. Such a program is designed to improve the delivery of oxygen to the penile erectile tissues and thus preserve the tissue, minimize damage that otherwise occurs during the period of neuropraxia, and potentially increase the likelihood of preserving erectile function. For this reason, use of penis pumps/VED is one of several treatments considered as part of a penile rehabilitation program.

Can Penis Pumps Increase Penis Size and Length?

In addition to erectile dysfunction, one of the most common side effects of prostatectomy is shrinkage of the penis, both in circumference and length. Penile shrinkage tends to worsen over time; however, penis pumps and vacuum pump therapy has been shown to help patients maintain preoperative penis size. In a clinical study, 63 percent of patients who didn’t use a vacuum erection device after a prostatectomy suffered from penis shrinkage versus 23 percent among those who routinely used 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.

What if you have not had surgery but just want to maintain the length and size of your penis as you age? Basically, as you get older, your capacity and frequency for nighttime erections is reduced. Nighttime erections are part of normal healthy sexual function as they stretch and maintain the penis tissue while you are sleeping, thereby maintaining the length and size of the penis. A healthy male usually has anywhere from 2 to 5 nighttime erections that help to maintain healthy penis tissue and length.

If you are suffering from ED or have taken and failed a nocturnal erection test, then you may want to try a penis pump to help you maintain the length and size of your penis while undergoing treatment. In addition, as part of a sexual health program a penis pump may be useful to maintain penis length and size in the absence of consistent nighttime erections.

Are Penis Pumps Safe?

A very important warning about vacuum erection devices is to make sure you only use instruments that have been approved by the FDA. Many penis pumps are being sold over the Internet, through the mail, and in sex shops, often touted as “penis developers,” and other names. These items may expose the penis to pressures that are excessive and that can cause injury and damage. Only penis pumps that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should be used, because they apply a safe, limited amount of pressure.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Penis Pumps?

A 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 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.

Reference for Penis Pumps for ED:

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

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