Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common concern. Medications to treat this condition were previously available on prescription only, but some options are now available over the counter.
Viagra is the most well-known treatment for ED. There are, however, many other pills and tablets available on the market, including over-the-counter (OTC) treatments and dietary supplements.
Before trying these, it is important to know if they work and if they are safe for short- or long-term use.
This article will look at various treatment options for ED, including OTC pills, natural remedies, and prescription medications such as Viagra. It will also discuss the evidence and risks associated with these options.
ED is a medical condition, so the manufacturers of OTC products are not legally allowed to say that they treat ED. Instead, the manufacturers may market them as sexual enhancers. These pills aim to help people maintain an erection.
Although many pills are available for purchase, none have yet received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat ED.
The FDA do not recommend using OTC products for ED because they are not regulated for safety and may contain undisclosed ingredients or varying doses.
The following sections will look at the evidence behind four common OTC drugs marketed for treating ED.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is an important hormone for sexual function. It helps create sex hormones, including testosterone and estrogen. The adrenal gland naturally produces this hormone.
Levels of DHEA in the body reach their peak in a person’s 20s, then they gradually decrease with age.
According to a 2018 review, there is evidence to suggest that low levels of DHEA in the body can increase the chance of ED. However, studies have not convincingly shown that taking DHEA supplements helps with ED or improves sexual performance.
In fact, one 2013 review concluded that DHEA did not significantly improve male sexual function.
Along with being touted for ED, DHEA has become a common supplement for boosting energy, enhancing immunity, slowing aging, and improving weight loss. There is not enough evidence to suggest that it is effective for any of these uses, however.
L-arginine is a common amino acid in men’s health supplements.
The body converts this amino acid into a chemical called nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps the blood vessels open wider, which improves blood flow.
Research from 2017 found that a significant number of people with ED have low levels of L-arginine.
However, the findings of this study are specific to males with poor blood flow through their arteries, which is known as arterial insufficiency. The findings did not apply to males without this issue.
A small-scale clinical trial from 2020 reported that taking 2.5 grams of L-arginine improved the symptoms of moderate ED.
That said, it is important to be cautious when taking L-arginine or similar supplements, as side effects can include nausea and stomach cramps. Supplements can also cause more serious side effects, such as low blood pressure and an increased risk of bleeding, when a person takes them alongside other medications.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) occurs when someone struggles to achieve or maintain an erection. Some evidence suggests that certain vitamins may help with ED. However, this may only be true for people with a vitamin deficiency.
Many health conditions can contribute to ED, including:
cardiovascular disease (CVD)
nerve damage, which can occur due to diabetes
anxiety or depression
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) reports that ED is also more likely to occur in older adults, people with obesity, and people who smoke.
In this article, we look at the vitamins that may help with ED. We will also look at other ED remedies.
Can vitamins help with ED?
Studies suggest that there may be links between ED and deficiencies in vitamins D, B9, and B3.
Vitamins and minerals help the body function properly, including the reproductive system. Getting enough vitamins can improve general health. However, there is no firm evidence that specific vitamins can cure ED.
However, there are a few studies that suggest a link between specific vitamin deficiencies and ED. These include:
vitamin B9 (folic acid)
vitamin B3 (niacin)
People with low levels of these nutrients will benefit from getting more of them. The following section looks at what the research says about the connection between certain vitamins and ED.
Vitamins and ED
A 2020 meta-analysis in Nutrientsfound a direct link between vitamin D deficiency and severe ED. Another study of young men with low vitamin D status found that those with a vitamin D deficiency had worse erectile function. This suggests a link between vitamin D deficiency and ED.
However, scientists are not sure what the relationship between this vitamin and ED is. Vitamin D may reduce inflammation, improve blood flow, or stimulate nitric oxide production, which is an important part of the erectile response.
The main source of vitamin D for humans is sunlight. A person can get more vitamin D by regularly exposing their skin to the sun while using an SPF to protect the skin from UV damage. It is also possible to get some vitamin D from foods, such as:
oily fish, such as salmon or sardines
People with vitamin D deficiency who cannot get regular sunlight may benefit from taking a vitamin D3 supplement.
Vitamin B9, or folic acid, may also play a role in ED. A 2014 study found that many participants with ED also had a folic acid deficiency.
Another 2020 study found that folic acid supplementation may be a useful part of ED treatment, with all 50 participants experiencing some improvement in their symptoms. However, the supplement did not cure ED completely.
Folic acid comes in two forms: a synthetic version that manufacturers add to food products, and folate, which is naturally-occurring and easier for some people to absorb. The following foods are rich in folate:
greens, such as spinach, kale, brussels sprouts, and broccoli
broccoli and asparagus
citrus fruits and bananas
beans, peas, lentils, and other legumes
A person can also find the synthetic form of vitamin B9 in fortified cereals.
Vitamin B3, or niacin, may also improve erectile function. A 2011 study found that niacin alone could improve symptoms in people with moderate to severe ED. The following foods are rich in vitamin B3:
meat, such as turkey, chicken, pork, and beef
A 2017 review says that vitamin C helps improve blood flow and increase testosterone, both of which are important for sexual function. However, there is no evidence that vitamin C supplements can improve ED.
However, it is a good idea to get an adequate amount of vitamin C every day. Foods that contain vitamin C include:
greens, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, spinach, cabbage, and cauliflower
thyme and parsley
guava and citrus fruits
red and green peppers
Erectile dysfunction becomes more common with age, but it can affect young males. Treatments can be effective for people of all ages.
Erectile dysfunction (ED), once called impotence, occurs when the penis does not receive enough blood to produce an erection for satisfactory intercourse.
ED is very common — most males experience difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection at some point. According to some estimates, ED affects 30 million males in the United States alone.
This article looks at how aging affects ED. We also explore the risk factors, causes, and treatments.
Can young people have ED?
607977507 Image credit: Westend61 / Getty Images.
Many people think of erectile problems as an older adult’s issue, but they can affect younger males, as well.
According to some estimates, ED affects 8% of males aged 20–29 years and 11% of those aged 30–39 years.
The data also suggest that the number of people under 40 seeking medical attention for ED is increasing.
Many factors that contribute to ED can occur at any age. These include physical and emotional factors — both of which are important for sexual activity.
Some contributing factors include:
having anxiety, depression, or feelings of shame or guilt about sexual activity
experiencing significant stress, about sex or something else
drinking alcohol in excess
using recreational drugs
having overweight or obesity
having a lack of physical activity
using workout supplements, testosterone boosters, or over-the-counter erectile aids
At any age, making adjustments such as lowering levels of stress and exercising more frequently can help improve erectile problems and boost overall health.
How does age affect ED?
Age is a main risk factor for ED. According to some estimates, males have a 40% chance of having some form of ED by their 40s. The risk then increases about 10% per decade.
While people are more likely to develop ED as they get older, aging does not directly cause it. ED is not a normal part of aging — some males are sexually active into their 80s.
However, as people get older, they are more likely to develop medical conditions that increase the risk of ED. These include:
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is defined as difficulty in achieving or maintaining an erection sufficient for sexual activity. Vacuum erectile devices (VEDs), also called penis pumps, are nonmedicated treatment options for ED. These devices can help a person with ED have a satisfying sex life.
ED is most common among males between the ages of 40–70 years old. The following factors increase a person’s risk for ED:
underlying health conditions
taking certain medicines
mental health conditions
overweight or obesity
history of smoking
This article discusses seven of the best penis pump devices available today.
How do they work?
People with ED may experience:
occasional difficulty having an erection
difficult maintaining an erection during sex
complete inability to achieve an erection
A penis pump can address the symptoms of ED. The device consists of the following:
a seal ring
a battery powered or mechanical pump
The pump creates a vacuum inside the tube, which stimulates blood flow to the penis. Increased blood flow produces an erection.
To use a penis pump:
Insert the penis into the tube.
Turn on the device if powered by a battery or squeeze the hand pump to remove air inside the tube.
The blood vessels in the penis will start to expand as the pump extracts air from inside the tube. It may take a few minutes to achieve an erection.
Once the penis is erect, slide the constriction ring down to the base.
Remove the tube from the penis.
Mechanical and battery powered penis pumps are easy to use and result in an erection that can last up to 30 minutes.
A penis pump cannot enlarge the size of the penis.
Importantly, constriction rings should not be left on for more than 30 minutes at a time to avoid penile injury.
Manual penis pumps
This section covers some manual penis pump devices on the market today.
Several of these devices are available over the counter at most pharmacies. However, some penis pumps require a prescription, which people can get from their doctor or urologist.
1. Encore Standard Manual Vacuum Erection Device
Encore’s manual VED consists of the following:
a plastic tube
four tension bands
a hand pump
a cone shaped ring applicator
a ring ejector
a body shield
The body shield with t his device prevents the skin and pubic hair from getting pulled into the vacuum tube.
Although the tube should fit most males, people can choose the “oversized penis pump” if the regular tube is too small.
Some individuals with chlamydia experience difficulty getting or keeping an erection, which is commonly called erectile dysfunction. This difficulty occurs when chlamydia infects the prostate gland, leading to prostatitis.
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can cause long-term health problems. Many people with chlamydia have no symptoms and are unaware that they have the infection.
If it goes untreated, chlamydia can lead to:
chronic prostatitis in men, causing pain and erectile dysfunction (ED)
an increased risk of getting HIV
permanent infertility in women and a painful condition called pelvic inflammatory disease
In this article, we explore the link between chlamydia and ED. We also describe when to get tested, how chlamydia is treated, and which other conditions can cause ED.
Does chlamydia cause ED?
If chlamydia infects the prostate, it may lead to ED.
Chlamydia can infect the prostate, causing a complication called prostatitis, which can lead to ED.
If chlamydia enters the genital tract, it can spread to nearby organs. In males, chlamydia bacteria can infect the urethra, which is the tube that carries sperm out of the body. Over time, the bacteria can travel through the urethra to the prostate gland.
If the prostate becomes infected and inflamed, it may restrict the flow of blood to the penis, which can make getting or keeping an erection difficult.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States report that chlamydia can spread to a sexual partner, even when a male does not ejaculate during the encounter.
Chlamydia often causes no symptoms. In some people, symptoms appear several weeks after the initial infection, and by then a person may have spread chlamydia to someone else.
When chlamydia does cause symptoms, they can include:
a burning sensation when urinating
discharge from the penis or vagina
pain or swelling in the testicles, which is less common
Chlamydia can indirectly cause ED. This does not mean that a person with ED necessarily has chlamydia or another STI.
If an individual is having problems getting or keeping an erection, they should discuss it with a doctor, who can advise about treatment.