- Emerging research suggests that low-intensity extracorporeal shockwave therapy (LiESWT) can be safely used to treat erectile dysfunction (ED).
- LiESWT is helpful for vasculogenic ED but not for men who have had prostate surgery.
- Talk to your doctor about non-invasive treatment options for ED.
Low-intensity extracorporeal shockwave therapy (LiESWT) is a safe treatment for erectile dysfunction, but satisfaction rates start out fairly high, then plateau at 40% after five years.
These are the conclusions of a 2021 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
The researchers followed 30 men over a period of 5 years, assessing erectile function and treatment satisfaction following LiESWT treatment.
The good news: For the first two years, erectile functioning improved. Overall, however, functioning appeared to decrease, then plateau over time. Over the five-year period, 40% of men in the study were satisfied with their ED treatment.
Although a 40% satisfaction rate may not sound high, LiESWT may be a gamble worth taking for men who have tried other options to treat their ED without success. And that number may be higher for some men: Researchers concluded that the therapy appears to work better for men whose ED is caused by diminished blood flow to the penis rather than prostate surgery.
What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?
Men with erectile dysfunction (ED) have trouble getting or maintaining an erection that is firm enough for sexual intercourse and/or experience premature ejaculation.
ED can be caused by a combination of factors, including:
- Poor blood flow to the genitals
- Excessive drug or alcohol use
- Prostate issues or surgery
Your doctor will recommend a course of treatment depending on the cause(s) of your ED. PDE5 inhibitors like Viagra are a popular treatment option for ED, but they are not always an appropriate course of treatment.
For instance, men who take nitrates (drugs used for certain heart conditions) should not take PDE5 inhibitors. Others may experience rare side effects.
LiESWT is an alternative, non-invasive way to treat ED. While sending shockwaves to your penis may sound alarming, there are several reasons why it may be a good choice for treating ED.
What Is Low-Intensity Shockwave Therapy?
Shockwave therapy is used by healthcare professionals to quickly relieve pain and promote healing. This treatment has been around since the 1980s, when it was first used to treat gallbladder stones in Munich in 1985. Since then, it’s been proven effective in treating a number of health issues.
- Treat kidney stones
- Heal certain stress fractures
- Reduce chronic pain, and
- Promote healing in injuries like Achilles tendonitis and tennis elbow
How Does LiESWT Work?
Shockwave therapy works by sending acoustic waves through tissue to the area of concern. The movement of these waves actually causes tiny ruptures in the capillaries in tendons and bones. While this sounds painful, the ruptures are actually a good thing. They cause new arteries to form to heal the damage. The new arteries promote improved blood flow to the penis.
How Does LiESWT Help with ED?
Remember, men with erectile dysfunction have trouble getting or keeping an erection that is firm enough for sex. In many cases, this may be happening because of a blood flow issue, referred to as vasculogenic ED. With vasculogenic ED, men do not have adequate blood flow to the penis to sustain an erection.
For erectile dysfunction treatment, a healthcare provider will use a device that looks like a wand to send the shockwaves to different areas of your penis. Because the shockwaves are low-intensity, the process should not be painful. The sensation will feel like pulses or vibrations rather than painful shocks.
That means you won’t need anesthesia or pain medication during treatment. In total, the treatment process can take around 15 minutes and may be carried out across several appointments for the desired improvement.
There are a couple issues with LiESWT and ED treatment. Unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved LiESWT specifically for ED treatment in the United States. You probably can’t walk into your doctor’s office and ask for it.
Currently, one of the few ways to get LiESWT is by participating in a clinical research study that’s overseen by an institutional review board (IRB).
The second issue? Researchers are still debating how it works and how effective it is in treating ED, and more research is needed.
What Does Earlier Research Say About LiESWT?
Again, exactly how LiESWT works to improve erectile functioning is still up for debate. Because it is a relatively new treatment for ED specifically, most of the research on LiESWT as a treatment for erectile dysfunction has been conducted on rats.
But even in rats, the results have been promising. In a 2019 review article, researchers reviewed available studies to summarize the effectiveness of LiESWT in improving erectile functioning. The studies they reviewed indicated increased intracavernous pressure (ICP) and vasodilation, both of which are critical to improving blood flow and getting erections.
The new study contributes long-term results with humans to the body of research. This information may bring us a step closer to having another effective treatment for men who suffer from vasculogenic ED.
The research on shockwave therapy is growing, and so far it looks like it is best suited for men whose ED is caused by poor blood flow to the penis.
Because the FDA has not yet approved LiESWT, your doctor is likely to recommend alternative treatment options like Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra, a weight loss and physical activity plan, or a penile implant.
How eDrugstore Can Help
If you’re not sure where to start, visit our erectile dysfunction page. We make it easy for men to talk to healthcare professionals about ED and to get medications like Viagra. Take advantage of our free online consultation to order medications at the click of a button or by calling 1-800-467-5146. Virtual health visits and shipping are always free.
Kwynn holds a Master of Public Health and is currently pursuing a PhD in Social Work. Her research examines the intersections of health, technology, and gender-based violence.