Couple concerned about erectile dysfunction

What can couples do when oral treatments for erectile dysfunction fail?

Judging by the ads for Viagra, Levitra, and other oral treatments for erectile dysfunction (ED), taking one of these pills will soon have you and your partner laughing and holding hands on the beach. But, alas, these pills don’t work for every man.

The goal of these medications, also known as PDE5 inhibitors, is to increase blood flow, but they only work in about 50 percent of men with ED. That leaves about two million American men looking for another solution – or simply giving up.

When ED medications work, men are very satisfied. This success has certainly helped to bring ED out of the shadows, but only partially. A recent U.S. study found that nearly 75 percent of men with erectile dysfunction were too embarrassed to discuss the problem with their physician.

And the medical field hasn’t done much to help encourage these reticent men. Among the litany of questions that a patient responds to in a typical medical history form – including inquiries about whether you wear you drink caffeinated beverages or keep guns at home – not one addresses satisfaction in your sex life.

This lack of communication drives Dr. Michael O’Leary, Director of the Men’s Health Center, to raise awareness about ED and let men know that satisfaction can be attained without the pill. “We usually see men after oral treatment hasn’t worked, and they’re often in the dark about other options that are available to them,” says Dr. O’Leary. “We can help them.”

Dr. O’Leary works with each patient to find the treatment that will suit his, and his partner’s, needs and preferences. Although there are a number of surgical and non-surgical options, Dr. O’Leary tends to steer his patients toward two options when oral medication doesn’t work: injection therapy or a penile implant.

Injection therapy is a very effective treatment that involves the use of a small, painless needle. Right before intercourse, the man will use the needle to inject himself with medication that promotes blood flow. This technique works in about 80 percent of men and has minimal side effects.

If less-invasive treatments like injection therapy don’t work, a penile implant is an extremely reliable option, with men and their partners reporting a very high satisfaction rate following this procedure. The two-piece inflatable implant pushes fluid from a reservoir, hidden in the scrotum, into cylinders in the penis. The patient then uses a release valve to control when the fluid is returned to the reservoir.

The device normally lasts for about 15 years. If it fails sooner, patients are typically anxious to get another one. “If the device wears out or malfunctions, they’re back in a heartbeat to get it replaced,” says Dr. O’Leary.

O’Leary recognizes that oral medication is the preferred treatment because of its ease of use. However, when pills don’t work, his experience has shown that other options, like injection therapy or a penile implant, can lead to significant patient satisfaction.

It might not be always be simple, but there is more than one way to get you and your partner to laugh and hold hands.

– Chris P

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