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Why pills are a short term solution to treating erectile dysfunction

Pills for Erectile Dysfunction

For longevity and spontaneous erections, alternative methods like Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (EWST) may prove to be more effective.

Erectile dysfunction may be defined as the persistent inability to get and subsequently maintain an erection hard enough for sexual activity. This condition is generally more prevalent in older men simply because older men are also highly likely to have other medical conditions associated with ED, such as diabetes and hypertension. 

However, ED is ultimately a health concern that can potentially affect any man out there regardless of his age. In fact, studies1 show that at least 50% of men aged 18 and above suffer from erectile dysfunction problems. I believe that this problem may be under-reported, bearing in mind that men are always reluctant to open up about their condition or even seek help for such a highly sensitive issue. 

In the last few years, pills have emerged as the most common or rather preferred treatment option for erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction pills are believed to initiate an erection sufficient enough for intercourse in about 70% of male ED patients. However, ED pills take about 20-60 minutes post-consumption to work or must be taken after meals. 

In other words - spontaneity is thrown out the window. Is there a better solution? 


Man holding on to a bottle of pills and clock

We all want quality sex life, but are we addressing the real issue? 

Erectile dysfunction can be caused by a number of potential factors - which is why pills may not work for everyone, and is usually short term. 

Before I go on about alternative treatment options, allow me to explain the two classifications of ED: temporary ED or chronic ED.

Temporary erectile dysfunction 

Temporary erectile dysfunction is predominantly caused by certain lifestyle factors. This means that once those factors are taken away, the condition will ultimately improve. Some common lifestyle causes include; 

  • Chronic stress

When you suffer from stress, your system automatically adjusts its production of the epinephrine hormone. Enhanced epinephrine levels make it quite tough for both the blood vessels and muscles found in the penile region to relax. As such, erectile dysfunction usually resolves when the cause of your anxiety or stress is dealt with.

  • Poor diet, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, and being obese

One of the most essential molecules needed for a man to get and maintain an erection is nitric oxide (NO). NO is a vasodilator, meaning it plays a huge role in allowing your blood vessels to relax - which is vital for an erection. 

Having excess weight, smoking, or even a poor diet may lead to chronic inflammation, which can result in problems with your blood vessel's normal functioning and ultimately reduce the availability of NO. 

  • Metabolic syndrome

Studies reveal that metabolic syndrome can potentially lead to erectile dysfunction, including atherosclerosis and low testosterone levels. Depending on the cause, in this case, erectile dysfunction may be treatable and temporary.

Man holding on to 2 eggs and a rope

Long-term erectile dysfunction

Unlike its short-term ED counterpart, long-term ED is fairly difficult to reverse due to its physical causes. Certain medical conditions such as spinal cord injuries, diabetes, hypertension, and multiple sclerosis may impact the nerves that affect your penis. The following are just a few conditions that can potentially cause long-term erectile dysfunction.

  • An injury to the spinal cord
  • Blocked or damaged arteries
  • Diabetes
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Penile tissue damage
  • Nerve damage
  • Peyronie's disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Sleep disorders
  • High-blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Surgery or injury to the penis, prostate, pelvis, bladder, and spinal cord

Why are pills short term solutions?

The primary reason why pills are usually a short-term solution for the treatment of erectile dysfunction is that in most instances, there is no one simple cause of erectile dysfunction

For instance, an individual taking diabetes or high blood pressure medications could experience ED as a result of those drugs as well as the underlying health problem. What's more, stress could worsen your ED condition, which may further lead to more stress!

Also, if your erectile dysfunction problem is a result of an underlying medical condition, taking a mere ED pill will never help treat or cure the condition. Before anything else, the underlying medical condition will first need to be resolved. As such, it is always advisable to contact your doctor for a complete examination of your overall health rather than try to fix the problem on your own.


Are there other treatment options for ED in Singapore?

The most common treatment options for long-term erectile dysfunction include surgery, ED vacuum pump, testosterone therapy, and extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT). ESWT has been used to treat ED in recent years with much success2. It is a fast, non-invasive solution with no downtime and side effects, and sexual intercourse can be spontaneous. 

To supplement your ESWT treatment, I usually recommend patients to include the following: 

Taking oral medications

If need be, oral drugs such as Viagra can be taken while you are undergoing ESWT treatment. 

Quitting smoking

As earlier explained, smoking causes damage to your blood vessels, ultimately leading to a reduced blood flow to your penile area. So, when you stop quitting, your erectile dysfunction symptoms will eventually subside.

Taking proper diet

Research has proven that nearly 80% of individuals suffering from ED have a body index mass greater than 25. Consuming a healthy diet can help you lose some unwanted weight and improve your ED symptoms.

Reducing stress

Anxiety and stress are known to increase the levels of hormones that make it fairly more difficult for the blood vessels as well as muscles in your penile region to relax, leading to erectile dysfunction symptoms.

Sex therapy

Undergoing sex therapy, relationship therapy or psychotherapy can potentially help solve erectile dysfunction that is caused by psychological problems.

For long-term erectile dysfunction problems, lifestyle changes alone may never help solve the problem. This means that you'll need to talk to your doctor to assess your situation and also recommend the best treatment option. 

As there are many potential causes of erectile dysfunction, pills alone are never a lasting solution for the problem. While erectile dysfunction is usually reversible or treatable, it is usually highly advisable to seek the help of a doctor who can recommend the best treatment plan based on the cause or causes of your ED symptoms.


References

  1. Tan, J. K., Hong, C. Y., Png, D. J., Liew, L. C., & Wong, M. L. (2003). Erectile dysfunction in Singapore: prevalence and its associated factors--a population-based study. Singapore medical journal, 44(1), 20–26.
  2. Porst H. (2021). Review of the Current Status of Low Intensity Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (Li-ESWT) in Erectile Dysfunction (ED), Peyronie's Disease (PD), and Sexual Rehabilitation After Radical Prostatectomy With Special Focus on Technical Aspects of the Different Marketed ESWT Devices Including Personal Experiences in 350 Patients. Sexual medicine reviews, 9(1), 93–122. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sxmr.2020.01.006 

This article was written and medically reviewed by Dr Ben, M.D on 06/01/22

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