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Couple sitting together on a bed.

Viagra vs. Penis Pumps

Erectile dysfunction affects nearly fifty percent of men at some point in their lives, and can cause big-time damage to a man’s quality of life, confidence, and sexual satisfaction. Despite this, there are surprisingly few options for managing ED.

Drugs like Viagra are what most people think of when they think of ED. But there’s another effective treatment that for most men remains shrouded in mystery: the penis pump.

Now, if your only familiarity with these is the “Swedish-made penis enlarger pump” joke from the first Austin Powers movie, you aren’t alone. Austin’s face might have been red, but the man was on to something. Penis pumps, also called vacuum erection devices, help draw blood into the penis to produce a full-fledged, drug-free erection and often a temporary boost in size as well.

 

In this article, we’re going to compare the power of the pump to the power of the pill to help you decide if either is right for you.

Whether you’re interested in pills, pumps, or both, eDrugstore.com has been helping men get a handle on erectile dysfunction for over 20 years. Get in touch with us today to discuss your treatment options with a licensed telehealth physician in your state.

 ViagraPumps
Works by......blocking the enzyme responsible for stopping the signal that causes erection....using vacuum pump to draw blood into the penis and holding it there with a constricting band.
Convenience/Ease of UseEasy as swallowing a tablet; portable; discreet.Requires preparation, equipment, and practice to use effectively; may be difficult to use for men with a lot of belly fat or pubic hair.
Starts working in......about an hour; faster with newer drugs/formulations....a few minutes, but requires some prep time before pumping.
Lasts......five to six hours for most; up to 36 hours for Cialis or generic tadalafil....for 30 minutes, after which the band has to be removed and the effects may quickly wear off.
Can be used......once per 24 hours....as often as 4-5 times per day, if tolerated.
Will cost you......between $5-$90 per pill....a one-time purchase of fifty to several hundred dollars, though more affordable options exist.
Side effects include......headache, backache, visual changes, flushing of skin....discoloration or bruising of the penis may occur with incorrect use; uncomfortable ejaculation.

Erectile Education

Let’s start with a quick refresher on how hardness happens.

When a man is sexually aroused, the nervous system releases chemicals that cause more blood to flow into the penis. As the penis gets harder, the veins going out get compressed, which prevents blood from leaving. When the stimulation goes away, an enzyme called phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) breaks down the chemicals that caused the erection so that less blood flows in and the trapped blood drains out.

Think of it like a garden hose with a spray nozzle on the end. Ever notice that when the water is on, the hose is harder to move? Erections work on more or less the same principle:

Increased flow in + Restricted flow out = ↑ pressure 

PDE5’s role is to turn the water off and open the nozzle, causing the hose to drain and become flexible again.

Man using a hose to water a garden.

How They Work

Viagra and Other ED Drugs

Viagra is a PDE5 inhibitor and works by temporarily blocking the PDE5 enzyme. This prevents it from breaking down the chemicals that cause erection so they build up and stick around longer. The result: more blood flow into the penis and a harder, longer-lasting erection.

It’s important to note that ED drugs don’t produce spontaneous erections. They work by amplifying the signals that cause erection, and so only help you get hard when you’re sexually stimulated. That said, for many men taking Viagra, it doesn’t take much stimulation to go from six to midnight.

Pumps/Vacuum Erection Devices

A penis pump consists of a tube-shaped chamber and a hand or battery-powered air pump. You insert your penis into the chamber, which creates an air-tight seal at the base. The pump removes air from the chamber, decreasing the pressure inside and making it easier for blood to flow into your penis. A constricting band placed around the base of the penis helps the erection last longer.

ViagraPumps
Blocks the enzyme responsible for stopping the signals that cause erectionUses vacuum pump to draw blood into the penis and hold it there with a constricting band
Easy as swallowing a tablet; portable; discreetRequires preparation, equipment, and practice to use effectively; may be difficult to use for men with a lot of belly fat or pubic hair
Starts working in ~ 1 hour; faster with newer drugs/formulationsWorks within minutes, but requires some prep time before
Lasts five to six hours for most; up to 36 hours for Cialis or generic tadalafilLasts ~ 30 minutes, after which the band has to be removed and the effects may quickly wear off
Can only take once per 24 hoursCan be used as often as 4-5 times per day, if tolerated
osts between $5-$90 per pill; recurring cost depends on usageOne-time purchase of fifty to several hundred dollars, though more affordable options exist
Side effects include headache, backache, visual changes, flushing of skinNo chemical side effects, but discoloration or bruising of the penis may occur with incorrect use; uncomfortable ejaculation

The Rundown

Do they really work?

ED drugs have proven to be very effective, and studies show they have a success rate of more than 70%. Of course, the billions spent on these drugs over the past 20 years also speaks to how well they work—if they didn’t, people wouldn’t buy them.

The pump appears to have a comparable success rate, and it’s estimated that 50-80% of men are satisfied with the results they get from using a vacuum pump. However, the pump depends on a good seal around the base of your penis to work effectively, which is more difficult to achieve if you’re overweight or have a lot of pubic hair.

Studies have shown that using a pump in combination with ED medication is not only safe, but can help more men achieve and maintain a better quality erection than either treatment alone.

Time To Talk Time

How Fast?

Both Viagra and the pump work quickly, but the pump gets the job done within minutes, whereas the fastest-acting ED drug takes 15-30 minutes to start working.

How Long?

The effect of ED drugs will last longer—around five hours for Viagra up to 36 hours for Cialis. The constricting band used with the pump can only be left in place for 30 minutes, and the pump’s effects may wear off quickly after the band is removed.

How often?

For most ED drugs, it’s recommended you take no more than one dose per 24 hours to avoid issues with blood pressure and side effects. The pump can be used as often as you need, and for men recovering from prostate cancer, it’s recommended to use up to four or five times per day.

Man drinking a large glass of water.

The Fine Print

Side Effects and Precautions

ED drugs can cause unpleasant side effects like headache, back pain, upset stomach, and temporary vision changes, none of which you’ll get with the pump. They can also cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure if used by men who take certain medications for chest pain (like nitrates or nitroglycerin) or high blood pressure (alpha-blockers like prazosin).

Pumps have no chemical side effects, but incorrect use can result in bruising or the appearance of little red dots called petechiae on the skin of the penis. Even correct use can produce an erection that feels or looks a bit unnatural—overly purple or bluish, cold to the touch, and not as firm around the base as a natural erection. Overpumping or leaving the constricting band in place for more than 30 minutes can make this worse. The constricting band can also squeeze off the urethra, resulting in weak or uncomfortable ejaculation.

Price Tag

Treatment with Viagra costs more in the long run because you have to buy more pills when you run out. Prescription insurance is notoriously fussy about covering Viagra and other ED drugs, so this can become a significant expense. Fortunately, generic versions of these drugs are available and can save you a bundle.

The pump can cost more up front—anywhere from fifty to a couple hundred bucks—but can be reused many times (after washing!) and doesn’t have any recurring costs. There are also more affordable pump options that can be found online.

Which Is Best For Me?

ED meds like Viagra can be used by most men who are otherwise healthy enough to have sex. They’re the preferred option if you don’t mind taking medication, especially if you want to keep your ED on the DL—taking a tablet is much more discreet than using a pump. Viagra costs more long-term, but it’s also much more convenient to use, as it doesn’t require any special equipment, preparation, or practice.

Pumps like the Freespace are the best option for men who don’t respond to ED drugs or can’t tolerate the side effects from them. Pumps are also safe to use for men who can’t take ED drugs because of other medications they take, like nitrates for chest pain. For men who can take Viagra, combining it with the pump can help achieve the full erection they may not get from pills alone.

Man standing at a fork in the road.

Not every ED treatment works for every man, so if Viagra didn’t work for you or caused side effects, it’s definitely worth a conversation with your doctor about trying a different erectile dysfunction drug or the pump. If you don’t currently have a doctor, contact eDrugstore.com to get connected to one today from our network of trusted, licensed telehealth physicians.

Randall is a medical writer with years of experience in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. After earning his Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, he worked as an infusion and specialty pharmacist, where he discovered his passion for making trustworthy healthcare information accessible to everyone.