Shockwave Therapy for Erectile Dysfunction: Latest Research + Videos
Did you know? Erectile dysfunction is more common than most men realize. Approximately 5% to 10% of men younger than 40 and 22% of men by age 40 have complete erectile dysfunction, according to the Center for Sexual Medicine at Boston University. That percentage grows larger as men age, to 49% by age 70.
A technology currently being tested in the U.S. may reduce those numbers permanently. Keep reading to learn about low-intensity shockwave therapy (Li-ESWT) and how it may change the future of ED.
What is Low-Intensity Shockwave Therapy?
Low-intensity shockwave therapy (Li-ESWT) uses soundwaves to heal injuries painlessly. High-intensity shockwave lithotripsy (the breaking up kidney stones) has been used safely for years to break up kidney stones. Medium-intensity ESWT is FDA-approved for treating orthopedic injuries and wound healing.
When researchers learned that patients treated with ESWL showed growth of new blood vessels following treatment, they began to investigate adapting the therapy to improve blood flow in the penis as a potential treatment for erectile dysfunction.
Although the FDA has not yet approved Li-ESWT for ED treatment, it is currently used in Europe as a first-line treatment for erectile dysfunction. Research is ongoing in the U.S. Though early results are mixed, there are promising indications that it may be a safe and effective treatment for ED.
How does ESWT work?
Li-ESWT is a targeted, noninvasive procedure used to treat vasculogenic erectile dysfunction (ED caused by impaired blood flow to the penis). The goal of ESWT is to improve that blood flow.
The practitioner uses a wand-type instrument that is touched to several areas of the penis as it emits painless soundwaves. The waves penetrate penile tissue and cause microtrauma to the cells. This trauma invokes a healing reaction and release of nitric oxide (the magic behind PDE5 inhibitors like Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra) that stimulates the growth of new blood vessels in the treated tissue. The result is improved blood flow and long-lasting ability to produce natural erections.
What Makes Li-ESWT Different from Other ED Therapies?
Other ED therapies can only offer temporary or short-term treatment of ED. These therapies work for many men, but many others find current treatments unhelpful or don’t like to use them.
The primary difference between Li-ESWT and all of these other ED treatments is that shockwave treatment is restorative, meaning that it heals, as opposed to palliative treatments, which only temporarily treat symptoms.
These are the restorative benefits of Li-ESWT:
- It stimulates growth factor release into the penile tissue.
- It induces stem cells to generate new blood vessels.
- It stimulates tissue regeneration and rapid healing.
- It decreases inflammation.
Li-ESWT uses no needles, anesthesia, or medications, and there are no side effects. Men usually feel only a mild tingling or vibration. The results are long-lasting—six or eight 20- to 30-minute sessions can provide a year’s worth of natural erections firm enough for sexual intercourse. The procedure can then be repeated if desired.
What Does the Research Say?
The research is still relatively new in using the technology to treat ED, and the results are encouraging but mixed. Nearly all found some degree of improvement with the treatment. Still, it’s difficult to draw valid conclusions from them because there was no standard treatment protocol.
Variables that affected results included the number of shockwaves administered, the number of treatment sessions, the interval between treatments, and treatment devices used. Some studies used a “sham” control group to rule out the placebo effect, and others did not. What’s more, some of the studies only tracked results for 12 weeks, while others followed study participants for a full year.
A March 2019 review study summarized the results of the research thus far. It noted that in all studies, subjects sustained positive effects on their ED for six months following treatment. At that point, some participants had deteriorating effects while others plateaued. However, at 12 months, all of them still had improvement from their baselines, or where they started.
The study authors added that patient age, ED severity, response to PDE5 inhibitor drugs, and other health factors potentially influenced the treatment’s effectiveness. Still, more study is needed with higher-level trials.
Are There Men Who Aren’t Good Candidates for Li-ESWT?
Currently, the treatment is best for men with mild ED that’s caused by blood-flow problems. It is not appropriate for men who have post-prostate cancer ED.
When Will Shockwave Treatment Be Available in the U.S.?
As of this writing, Li-ESWT is still considered an experimental technique in the U.S. Although there are plenty of studies available in Europe that pronounce it safe and effective, the FDA needs answers to unresolved questions, according to the Urology Times.
These questions include who the ideal patient is for this technology and which protocols and devices work best. (There are several different shockwave devices on the market.)
At this point, no one can say when Li-ESWT may be approved for general use. There are clinical studies underway now, but quality trials take time. However, interest does seem to be growing as positive results are published, which is likely to attract more attention from researchers.
Beware of Sham Treatments
There are providers offering shockwave treatment for ED currently, according to Tobias Kohler, M.D., a urology professor at Mayo Clinic in an interview with Urology Times, but he does not recommend them.
“There are two types of shock wave machines,” Kohler explained. “There’s the SwissWave, which is a class 1 medical device that’s offered throughout the country by chiropractors and the like with claims that it improves erectile dysfunction. Because it’s a class 1 medical device, they can offer this to patients and administer it without a worry from the FDA.”
Kohler goes on to say that a class 1 medical device “doesn’t do anything.” The shock is too shallow and doesn’t transfer enough energy to affect the penile tissue. There is no supporting research for these class 1 treatments.
Class 2 devices, which deliver actual shocks, are the only legitimate shockwave devices supported by the research. Unfortunately, these machines are not yet FDA-approved. The only way to get this treatment currently is to enroll in a clinical trial. If you’re interested in participating in one, visit ClinicalTrials.gov to find trials near you.
If you’re interested in extracorporeal shockwave treatment but could use a boost in your erections while you wait, eDrugstore has what you need. Take advantage of our free medical consultation and free shipping, and get started today!