But it’s only natural for men to wonder if treating ED can be painful. Here’s the good news: most ED treatments result in mild pain at most, and most men who undergo treatment for ED do not have to worry about pain as a side effect. However, by the very nature of some treatments (like injectable drugs), a certain amount of pain is to be expected. But in no case is excessive pain normal.
If you do experience pain with an ED treatment that you believe to be unreasonable for the type of treatment, don’t hesitate to bring this to your doctor’s attention. It could indicate a rare or serious problem that needs medical treatment. In most cases, however, side effects of various treatments are mild and transient and do not interfere with sexual enjoyment.
The following table lists various treatments for ED, along with a description of how the treatments work, and the pain level men may experience when using them. On the pain level scale, 0 represents no pain, and the higher the number, the more severe the pain. For example, a pain level of 10 would indicate severe debilitating pain.
|Treatment||How it Works||Pain Level|
|Prescription Drugs||Men who do not have health problems that contraindicate prescription drugs like Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra may be prescribed these drugs for treatment of ED. Common side effects include headache, flushing, heartburn, stuffy nose, and indigestion. These side effects are usually very minor.In very rare cases, severe reactions may include difficulty breathing, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, or painful and prolonged erection. These (very rare) side effects may require emergency treatment and should be reported to your doctor.||0-4|
|Vacuum Pump Devices||Vacuum devices used in the treatment of ED are made from a clear plastic cylinder that’s open at one end. The other end has a pump mechanism used to generate negative pressure within the cylinder. This draws blood flow into the penis, resulting in an erection. When used properly, it should cause no pain. However some men do complain of mild pain with these devices.||0-2|
|Injection Therapy||When injection therapy is used to treat erectile dysfunction, a small amount of medication is injected directly into the shaft of the penis using a very fine gauge needle. The medications, which are smooth muscle relaxants, increase blood flow. Around one-third of men experience pain at the injection site, or more diffusely. Men who experience pain with one of the drugs, Caverject, may have less pain with an injectible mixture of prostaglandin E1, phentolamine, and papaverine.||1-4|
|Surgery||There are a few different kinds of surgical treatments for ED, with varying risks for pain afterwards. For example, with the type of surgery where a semi-rigid rod is implanted, the risk of pain is highest due to risk of the implant eroding through the skin. This complication is rare, but can be very painful.With inflatable implants, this risk is not present, but around 1% of men experience painful erections with inflatable implants. Vascular surgery, in which arteries within the penis are reconstructed, and in which some veins within the penis are blocked (thus increasing blood flow to the penis and decreasing blood flow leaving the penis),can result in painful erections from scar tissue in around 1% of patients||1-8|
|Herbs and Supplements||Numerous herbs and supplements — including ginkgo, DHEA, L-arginine, Propionyl-L-carnitine, and zinc — have been used as home remedies for ED. Many of these supplements have not been extensively tested to determine risks and side effects. However, it is not unreasonable to expect that some of them, in some dosages, in some men, may cause discomfort similar to indigestion. More severe pain after taking an herb or supplement is a sign you should stop taking it; and if the pain persists, you should call your physician.||0-2|
|Increased Exercise||Regular physical exercise is recommended by many physicians for men experiencing ED due to the cardiovascular benefits and the benefits from losing excess weight. Exercise improves circulation, including circulation to the sexual organs. Aside from minor muscular pain, exercise shouldn’t be painful unless you experience an injury.||0-2 (unless you experience an injury)|
|Quitting Smoking||Like physical exercise, quitting smoking improves whole-body blood circulation. Withdrawal from smoking can cause headaches, anxiety, and nausea. Smoking addiction is a physical addiction, and the body suffers withdrawal symptoms after quitting. It can take 8 weeks or so to eliminate withdrawal symptoms.||0-4|
|Meditation / Guided Imagery||Meditation and guided imagery, which may be taught as part of a yoga class, or which may be taught by a psychological practitioner, is used to help men cope with the anxieties and stresses of modern life that can contribute to ED. Many men who practice meditation find that it enables them to “let go” of stresses enough to be able to relax and enjoy sexual activity.||0|
|Psychological Counseling||Psychological counseling is used as a treatment for men whose ED is determined not to be due to a physical problem. Men who were sexually abused as children, men with clinical depression, and men with anxiety and other disorders who experience ED can benefit greatly from working with a counselor who can help them work through psychological issues that may be interfering with sexual functioning. Couples counseling is sometimes recommended for men with relationship issues that appear to be affecting sexual function.||0|
In general, serious pain from ED treatments is rare, and usually means that something is wrong. In most cases, men do not experience pain from ED treatments that is severe enough to make them stop using the treatment. Side effects from prescription drugs are usually mild and not bothersome.
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