Whether you’ve been living with erectile dysfunction for a while or have only recently been diagnosed, you’re likely to be aware of the different treatment options that come in tablet form.
In fact, even if you don’t have ED (even if you don’t have a penis), you’ve probably received a rogue email offering to cure the condition overnight with a magic pill.
If you can’t take ED pills for medical reasons, or find the side-effects unpleasant, you’re right to look around for alternatives. But the choices can be confusing – when everything claims to work, how do you know what’s going to suit you?
Here we look at the ineffective, sometimes dangerous, ‘treatments’ out there, and the alternative ED treatments that actually work.
Miracle cures don’t exist, and they’re dangerous
Many of us receive unsolicited emails containing promises of magic ‘hardening’ elixirs, enlargement potions and ‘the best sex you’ve ever had’ supplements. Unsurprisingly, these so-called ‘treatments’ are writing cheques that they can’t cash – they don’t work and have no scientific basis for their claims.
Most of the treatments that make promises like these are, at best, ineffective – at worst they’re dangerous.
- If you don’t know what’s in a tablet, powder, cream or drink, don’t use it.
- If you’re buying medicines online, make sure it’s from a reliable, safe online doctor service that’s regulated by the CQC and the MHRA. This will ensure that the medicines you’re buying are safe and genuine.
- If you’re in any doubt whether the medicine you’re taking is legitimate or not, take it to your local pharmacy for them to check it.
- If you’re requesting prescription medicine online, make sure you have a consultation before you’re prescribed anything.
Alternative treatments aren’t anything new
We might be more aware of unlicensed alternative treatments these days thanks to email, pop-up ads on the internet, and changing attitudes to talking about sex, but they’re not a new idea.
It’s probably fair to say that, since the first man experienced erectile dysfunction, there have been experimental and alternative methods to treating the condition.
Early case studies of ED and its treatment were documented in the eighth century BC, and suggested treatments at the time included:
- Eating the testes of a goat that have been boiled in milk and mixed with sesame seeds and porpoise fat.
- Rubbing the soles of your feet with a mixture of clarified butter, eggs, mice, frogs and sparrows.
Just like the emails of today, these practices promised ‘undiminished vigour’. It’s not reliably documented how well these treatments worked. We categorically do not recommend any of these treatments.
Some patients report success with acupuncture, however there isn’t strong clinical evidence for this being an effective treatment for erectile dysfunction.
Breakthrough medical ED treatments
Did you know that the first medical treatment for impotence wasn’t a pill? In 1995 alprostadil was first marketed as an effective ED treatment. Alprostadil is a medicated cream applied inside the urethra using a small tube.
It wasn’t until 1998 that the first orally administered ED pill was approved for medical use – sildenafil citrate (more commonly known by its brand name Viagra). There is a range of ED pills available to suit most people. Your doctor will usually recommend a particular treatment after a consultation during which they’ll ask about your medical history, how often you have sex, how spontaneous your sexual activity is, and whether you’re diabetic.
However, even if you’re medically suitable for the treatment, you might not get on with it. Some people can’t or don’t like to take pills and some suffer side effects such as nausea, headaches and pounding heartbeat that they can’t put up with.
If I can’t take pills, what are my options?
If you’re not medically suitable for ED pills, or suffer unpleasant side effects, there are alternative, clinically sound treatments available. And none of these involve rubbing things on your feet or boiling mice.
Depending on the cause of your ED, lifestyle changes might offer effective treatment. Smoking, drinking to excess and being overweight can all contribute to poor blood flow. Sufficient blood flow if vital for an erection capable of penetration, so get yours pumping.
- Cut down on processed food, reduce portion sizes
- Have at least two or three alcohol-free days per week
- On the days you do drink alcohol, limit yourself to 2-3 units
- Exercise for 30 minutes every day – try a brisk walk or a kick-about with friends
In some cases ED can be caused or made worse by stress, anxiety or previous trauma. Negative feelings about sex, tough periods at work or in your relationships, and even memories of previous trauma can have physical effects, with ED included.
Discussing your feelings with a trained professional could help ‘unlock’ something that’s holding you back. Finding the right therapist is like finding the right medication, you may identify the right one straight away, or you might need to try a few first. Therapies can include:
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
- Counselling (either on your own or with a partner)
- Psychosexual therapy
Your GP can suggest therapists in your area.
Other medical treatments
As the first ED treatment goes to show, orally administered pills aren’t the only medical proven treatment for ED.
Alprostadil (an ED cream that is also prescribed as branded Vitaros) was a forerunner of ED treatment back in 1991, and now it helps many men who aren’t able to take ED pills, or who don’t find them effective.
Visit our ED clinic to find out more about Vitaros and how it works. If you don’t mind taking pills, but think the one you’re taking isn’t quite right, you can take a free assessment at any time and one of our doctors will suggest a suitable treatment that suits you.
Remember, ED can be an indicator that something else isn’t right in your body. If you’ve recently started experiencing ED, visit your GP to get checked for any medical underlying causes.