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What Options Do I Have Besides Viagra?

If you're having difficulties getting and keeping an erection but don't want to use medication, other medical options are available to you.

If you’re having difficulties getting and keeping an erection but don’t want to use medication, other medical options are available to you.

Not all men suffering from erection problems can take Viagra and the other popular impotence drugs. Although these medications have been clinically shown to be safe and effective for most men, they don’t work for everyone.

Some men may find their side effects — mild for most men — intolerable. For still others, the drugs may be ineffective for reasons that aren’t altogether clear.

On top of that, some heart patients must take nitrate-based drugs, which are incompatible with Viagra and the other PDE5 inhibitors because together they can cause a dangerously sharp drop in blood pressure.

Alternative Options

What alternative options are available to men who would like to stay sexually active but for whatever reason can’t — or don’t want to — take PDE5 inhibitors? Fortunately, there are other ways in which erection problems can be at least temporarily overcome to allow you to engage in sexual activity.

Perhaps the simplest and most natural approach to overcoming impotence is to make some lifestyle changes that hopefully can make it easier for you to get and keep an erection strong enough for intercourse.

This approach is usually most successful in men who have only just begun to experience symptoms of impotence. For them, changing their habits can sometimes reverse erection difficulties and keep them sexually active for the foreseeable future.

Lifestyle Modifications

Most of these so-called lifestyle modifications are well-known to anyone who understands the basics of good cardiovascular health. And these lifestyle changes have the added bonus of helping to protect you from more serious cardiovascular episodes — such as heart attack and stroke — in the future.

Eating a heart-healthy diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, modest portions of red meat, and more generous servings of fish and poultry is a good way to get started. Make sure your diet includes plenty of whole grains and that it substitutes healthy polyunsaturated fats, such as those in fish, avocados, and olive oil, for trans fats and saturated fats, such as those in red meats and full-fat dairy products.

Regular Exercise Important

Staying active is good for your cardiovascular system and your sexual health, so combine your healthy eating plan with a regular regimen of physical activity. Other lifestyle changes that can help you recapture your mojo in the bedroom include stopping smoking, moderate alcohol consumption, and making sure you’re getting a good night’s sleep every night.

If lifestyle changes fail to fully reverse your symptoms of impotence, the Urinary & Kidney Team at Cleveland Clinic suggests that you consider one of the following medical alternatives to PDE5 inhibitors.

Vacuum Devices: The science behind the penile vacuum device is fairly simple. A man fits a rigid plastic tube over his penis. Once fitted tightly around the base of the penis, air is pumped out of the plastic tube, creating a vacuum. This vacuum-effect helps to draw blood into the penis, creating an erection-like effect within five minutes or so. When the erection is judged sufficiently rigid for sexual activity, a constrictive band is placed around the base of the penis and the plastic tube is removed.

Men using the vacuum device should keep the constrictive band in place for no longer than 30 minutes, making it imperative to begin sexual activity shortly after an erection has been attained.

Of the vacuum device, Cleveland Clinic urologist Drogo Montague, M.D., says, ¨This can often be made to work. It’s not acceptable for some people. But it’s safe and effective.¨ Dr. Montague notes that some men find this approach too mechanical, acknowledging that it does have an obvious ¨hassle factor.¨ While vacuum devices don’t usually interfere with orgasm, they might block ejaculation.

WebMD.com reports that the vacuum device produces an erection satisfactory for sexual intercourse in six to nine men out of 10 who have used the device. The risk of side effects is small, and those that do occur are generally minor. Possible problems, according to WebMD, may include bruising, a loss of sensitivity or numbness, pain or discomfort, the pinching of scrotal tissue, and a sensation that the penis is cold.

For some men with erection problems, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking can help them to regain healthy erection function.

For some men with erection problems, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking can help them to regain healthy erection function.

Penile Injection Therapy: Effective in roughly 80 percent of all men with erection problems, penile injection therapy involves the injection of a vasodilating drug, such as alprostadil, directly into the penis. Vasodilators expand blood vessels, thus allowing strong blood flow, which is a prerequisite for an erection.

While the idea of sticking a needle into your penis may be enough to make you go limp — everywhere — in practice it’s not as bad as it sounds, according to Dr. Montague. He notes that the needle is quite small, and as a result the injection is not terribly painful. However, this form of therapy does have one significant drawback, and that is its expense.

According to WebMD, penile injection therapy is fairly fast-acting, producing an erection strong enough for intercourse within five to 20 minutes after the injection. However, the resulting erection rarely lasts for more than an hour. In some cases, the erection may remain even after ejaculation.

The side effects of penile injection therapy are generally mild and may include bleeding and/or pain at the injection site, a painful erection, and bruising or clotted blood in the area of the injection.

Although rare, injection therapy sometimes causes a curvature of the penis. ¨If the erection starts to become curved, we need to know,¨ says Dr. Montague. “If the erection doesn’t go down after two hours, you need to come in for a reversal. But there are men who use this for years.”

Penile implant surgery is yet another alternative to medication, one that gets high marks from those who have chosen to take this route.

Penile implant surgery is yet another alternative to medication, one that gets high marks from those who have chosen to take this route.

Penile Implant Surgery: Surgical implants can allow a man with erection problems to get an erection whenever the time is right. Although available in both inflatable and noninflatable forms, Dr. Montague focuses primarily on the inflatable implant, which involves the surgical replacement of the penis’s spongy erectile tissue with two cigar-shaped cylinders. Also implanted is a reservoir that contains saline solution, which usually goes inside the abdominal muscles, and a small pump, placed between the testicles.

When a man needs to get an erection, he can activate the pump, which then fills the penile cylinders with saline fluid, creating a firm erection that remains in place until he activates the release valve, which allows the fluid to return to the reservoir.

Dr. Montague notes that this option, while not the first choice of most men, is the most highly rated of these three alternatives to medication. “The attractive thing about an implant is that it’s part of your body,” he says. “If you go on vacation, you don’t have to remember to take syringes or medications. It’s MRI safe, and it doesn’t set off any detectors at the airport. You can have sex whenever you want, at no cost per use, with the same response every time.”

Photo Credits: simhomeless, patiosun, Army Medicine

Don Amerman is a freelance author who writes extensively about a wide array of nutrition and health-related topics.

Don Amerman has spent more than three decades in the business of writing and editing. During the last 15 years, his focus has been on freelance writing. For almost all of his writing, He has done all of his own research, both online and off, including telephone and face-to-face interviews where possible. Don Amerman on Google+