Monday the 4th of September is World Sexual Health Day! Join us as we look at a variety of sexual health topics in the lead up to the 4th!

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a medical condition in which a man is unable to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient for sex. Many people know about Viagra, the infamous little blue pill, but Viagra and other ED medications may not be suitable for all men; in particular, men with heart or liver problems and some other health conditions are advised to not use Viagra. Few people realise that there are various non-medical ED treatments that you could try.

Here, we’ll discuss everything from lifestyle changes and natural remedies to penis pumps and rings to help you work out which ED treatment is best for you and your sex life.

Rings and Restrictions

An erection is caused by a rush of blood to the penis. The blood flows into the tissues, causing them to swell and stiffen. Some people with erectile dysfunction can get an erection, but they struggle to keep the erection hard enough for sexual function, while some people find that they struggle to get an erection at all.

A penis ring is a tight band worn at the base of the penis. It restricts blood flow away from the penis which can help you to maintain an erection once you have one. If you cannot get an erection in the first place, it may be best to combine the penis ring with a penis pump. The pump draws blood into the penis and the ring helps to keep the blood in the penis for an erection.

Before you use a penis ring, make sure you are aware of the risks involved. Some people have reported mild side effects when using a penis ring such as:

  • Pain
  • Numbness or changes to sensation
  • Unusual swelling
  • Bruising

These symptoms are usually temporary, and may result from improper use. Always use the penis ring as directed and consult a doctor if you experience any damage to your penis.

Penis rings restrict blood flow to and from the penis. If the blood flow is restricted for too long, it can result in damage to the tissues of the penis. You should never use a penis ring for more than 30 minutes at a time.

If you cannot remove your penis ring, you should seek emergency medical attention. Failure to seek help could lead to permanent damage to your penis. When used correctly, penis rings can be an effective tool to help you achieve and maintain an erection.

Penis Pumps

Since ED medications, such as Viagra, have become available, penis pumps have become less widely used; but they still have a role to play in treating ED. Penis pumps offer an alternative to medication and can also produce an erection more quickly than most ED drugs.

A penis pump is a hollow plastic tube that is attached to a vacuum pump. The pump may be manual or battery operated. You insert your penis into the tube, and a silicone seal around the penis allows the pump to create a vacuum.

The vacuum helps to draw blood into the penis, creating an erection. They are often used in combination with a constriction ring around the penis to slow blood flow away from the tissues, helping you to maintain an erection for longer.

Penis pumps are safe for most men to use; however, you should always ensure that you buy a good quality device and follow the instructions for use. Do not use a penis pump with any broken or sharp parts, as you could injure yourself. The main risks of a penis pump is pain, excessive swelling or bruising. You should not use a penis pump if you are taking blood-thinning medication, or if you have a blood clotting disorder. These can increase your risk of bleeding.

It is also recommended that you avoid using a penis pump if you are taking pain killers, as you may be less likely to notice if any injury occurs to your penis during use. If you are using a constriction ring with your penis pump, you must ensure that you do not leave the ring on your penis for any longer than 30 mins. Constriction rings reduce blood flow to the penis, which could cause permanent damage to the tissues if left on for too long.

Natural Remedies for ED

There are several natural remedies hypothesised to help in erectile dysfunction, such as horny goat weed, maca, panax ginseng, L-arginine and yohimbe. These herbal remedies are not subjected to the same rigorous testing as pharmaceutical products, so less is known about the risks and the benefits of use.

Some remedies such as horny goat weed and L-arginine are thought to work on similar pathways as ED medications like Viagra. This means that they may relax the blood vessels walls, which improves blood flow to the penis. However, as these substances have not been refined pharmaceutically, it is more likely that they will have wide effects upon the whole body. In some cases, this has caused light-headedness, low blood pressure and irregular heartbeats.

The exact mechanisms behind many of these treatments are not yet understood; any benefits might be related to the placebo effect. The placebo effect can deliver an improvement in your symptoms, but you may experience greater effects from an evidence-based medication.

As little research has been done on these natural ED treatments, the proper dosing is not yet fully understood. In addition, a lack of regulation can mean that the amount of active substance contained in these treatments may vary, and some versions of these substances may be stronger than others. High doses of horny goat weed has led to spasms and respiratory failure in some individuals.

With this in mind, make sure you are well informed about any natural remedies that you intend to use for erectile dysfunction. If you have any concerns, speak to your doctor who may be able to recommend a more suitable alternative.

Exercise

One of the primary causes of erectile dysfunction is poor blood flow to the penis. Aerobic exercise promotes healthy blood vessels, which in turn can improve blood flow to the penis and the rest of the body. Regular exercise also has the additional benefit of reducing your risk of high blood pressure and diabetes which are both associated with erectile dysfunction.

Increased exercise is also a great way to lose weight. One study found that approximately one third of men with obesity were able to resolve their erectile dysfunction through exercise, dietary changes and weight loss.

You could also try specific exercises for ED, such as pelvic floor exercises. Also known as kegel exercises, these help to strengthen the muscles which help the penis to fill with blood during an erection. The best way to find your pelvic floor muscles is to try to stop urinating mid-flow. The muscles that you squeeze to do this are your pelvic floor muscles.

To exercise these muscles, try to squeeze and hold them for 5-10 seconds before releasing them. If you repeat this for 10-20 reps, three times a day, you may start to see an improvement in your pelvic floor.

Talking to Your Partner About ED

It can be really difficult to know how to talk about ED with your partner. It can feel embarrassing, and some men are worried about how it might reflect on their masculinity. Not talking about ED can lead to bigger problems in your relationship as communication breaks down.

Sometimes, your partner may be left wondering if you still find them attractive, or if they aren’t able to satisfy you anymore. For these reasons, it is important to be as open and honest with your partner as you can.

The hardest part is often just starting the conversation. Once you get talking, many people do find that their partners are incredibly supportive and will want to help. It’s impossible to find a perfect situation in which to broach the subject; you may find it more productive to talk about it outside of the bedroom, at a time when you both have a few minutes to spare.

Some people find it easiest to bring these things up on a walk or car journeys, as it can feel less awkward when you’re not facing each other, but you need to find something that works for you.

Similarly, people may have different thoughts about when they want to talk to their partner about ED. Some people may prefer to speak to their partner before they have explored treatments, some people may prefer to wait until they’re on a treatment already before they speak to their partner. Either way, it’s completely up to you.

There’s no perfect way to talk about ED, but you need to do what feels right between you and your partner. Delaying the conversation can be unproductive and lead to further difficulties in your relationship. It may not feel like it, but it is often easiest to broach the topic early on, so you can face the problem head on with your partner’s support.

Conclusion

There are a wide range of non-medical ED treatments available; it may take time before you find the treatment that works best for you. Whatever solutions you choose to try, you should always ensure that you’re aware of the risks and benefits of each treatment and always try to make your purchases from a reliable retailer.

With so many treatments for erectile dysfunction, it can be really valuable to talk to your partner about how they feel about each option. It can be difficult to bring up the subject, but it can save you both a lot of stress and heartache in the long run.

Many people find their partners are incredibly supportive to them as they deal with erectile dysfunction, so make sure you find the time to have the conversations you need to have with each other early on. Erectile dysfunction is not something you should have to go through alone.