Sexual Wellness Resource Center
For Adults over 50.

Penis Pumps for ED: Can They Help?

By Michael Bates, M.D.

 

Many men are curious about penis pumps and their effectiveness in treating ED. Who might benefit from pump usage?

Penis pumps are an option for older, healthy men with ED who either don’t want to use Viagra like medication or vibrators, or who aren’t getting a satisfactory result from them. However, their main indication is for men with diabetes and for post op rehabilitation following surgery for prostate cancer.

How do these conditions affect erections, and how can a pump help?

Diabetes affects the erection nerve stimulation that initiates in the brain, travels to the nerve bundles of the penis, and begins the cascade of events to increase blood flow into the penis. It also affects the arteries themselves. The diameter of the arteries is decreased, and they don’t respond normally to the nerve stimulation. The result is that there isn’t adequate blood flow to the penis to create an erection.

Prostate cancer surgery can also interfere with normal blood flow. However, the main problem is the disruption of the nerve networks that carry the erection-forming signals from the brain.

In both situations, the pump facilitates blood flow into the penis by creating negative pressure. This allows the penis to fill with blood and become erect.

OK, so how does one use a pump?

Although called a pump, the device actually consists of two parts: a transparent plastic cylinder with an attached manual or battery operated pump. When the goal is an erection satisfactory for intercourse, a penis ring is also part of the system.

Here are the steps:

  1. The cylinder is placed over the flaccid penis and an airtight seal is made at the circular point of contact with the skin using a sealing gel.
  2. The pump is activated manually or by battery. The negative pressure created by the pump gradually draws blood into the penis creating the erection. The process can take 5–10 minutes manually, or less time using an electric pump. The battery option is better for men with hands weakened by arthritis, illness, or old age.
  3. If the goal is intercourse, the ring is slipped off the base of the cylinder over the base of the erect penis. The ring restricts the flow of blood out of the penis to help maintain the erection.
  4. If the pump is being used for erection rehab following prostate cancer surgery, the release valve should be opened after 5–10 minutes of erection. For rehab, pump use is recommended 4–5 times daily for 3–6 months. However, you should always consult your doctor about your specific treatment plan.

Are there those who should not use a penis pump?

Men with blood clotting disorders such as sickle cell anemia or leukemia should check with their doctors before testing a pump.

Men who have a history of priapism, a condition in which the penis remains erect for hours after intercourse or after stimulation has ceased, should not use a pump.

Are penis pumps safe?

YES, when used properly.

  • Pumps are non-invasive
  • There are fewer side effects from pump usage than from using medication
  • Limit use to no more than 30 minutes
  • Understand how the release valve works
  • Understand how the specific model of pump works
  • Pump use may cause mild bruising at the base of the penis, which resolves spontaneously within a few days

Do I need a prescription from my doctor or can I buy a pump over the counter?

Pumps purchased with a prescription at the pharmacy are expensive, costing up to $500.   Pumps marketed as sex toys are considerably less expensive—an economical option to use to try out the device. If used as part of a post op erection rehab plan, you should consult with your doctor about the device you use.

What is the take-home message?

  • Pumps are an option to overcome ED secondary to diabetes or surgery for prostatic cancer.
  • Pumps may be combined with medication prescribed for ED if you aren’t getting the desired result from the medication alone.
  • Sex toys, if used properly, are harmless, they may help, and besides, they are a lot of fun! You can shop sex toys for men in the X’s and O’s Store.

This article is the 4th in a series of an in-depth look at the role of sex toys in the treatment of ED. Please us know if you have any questions on the Ask the Expert page.

As per our Terms of Use, this article is for general educational and informational purposes only and is not meant to serve as a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult with your own physician or health care practitioner regarding the use of any information received here before using or relying on it. Your physician or health care practitioner should address any and all medical questions, concerns, and decisions regarding the possible treatment of any medical condition.

About the Author

Michael Bates, M.D.

Dr Bates practiced obstetrics and gynecology for 34 years in Wichita, Kansas, until his retirement in 2011.

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