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  • Erection Problems: Should I Take Medicine?
 

Erection Problems: Should I Take Medicine?

You may want to have a say in this decision, or you may simply want to follow your doctor's recommendation. Either way, this information will help you understand what your choices are so that you can talk to your doctor about them.

Erection Problems: Should I Take Medicine?

Get the facts

Your options

  • Take medicine for erection problems.
  • Don't take medicine. Try home treatment instead.

Key points to remember

  • There are a number of treatments for erection problems. But medicines such as Cialis, Levitra, and Viagra are usually tried first, because they work well and are easy to use. About 70 out of 100 men who use these medicines are able to have an erection and successfully have intercourse, and 30 out of 100 are not.1
  • These medicines are not an option if you have heart disease and need to take nitroglycerin or other medicines that contain nitrates.
  • If you and your partner feel that sexual intercourse is an important part of your relationship, you may want to try medicine. It's important to talk about your and your partner's sexual preferences. Couples often assume that each of them knows what the other person likes when it comes to sex. But sometimes they are wrong.
  • You may be able to treat some erection problems on your own. You can make lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking or drinking less alcohol. Doing sensual exercises with your partner may also help.
FAQs

What is an erection problem?

A man has erection problems if he repeatedly can't get or keep an erection that is firm enough for him to have sex. Erection problems are also called erectile dysfunction or impotence.

Having an erection problem doesn't mean a lack of interest in sex. And it's not the same as having an occasional problem getting or keeping an erection. That problem affects all men at some time in their lives.

Erection problems can occur at any age. But they are more common in older men, who often have other health problems. Medicine can help both older and younger men.

What causes an erection problem?

Erection problems may be caused by physical problems, such as injury to nerves or loss of blood supply to the penis.

They can also be linked to other health problems. These include diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease.

Anxiety, stress, and depression can also cause erection problems. So can medicines you take for other health problems. Men who drink too much alcohol, smoke, or use illegal drugs also are at risk for erection problems.

Why treat an erection problem?

The decision about whether to treat an erection problem is often based on personal preference. It may not be as easy as the decision about whether to treat other medical problems. Erection problems aren't life-threatening. But they can affect how you feel about yourself. They can make it hard to father a child, if that is your wish. If you are trying to have a child, you should talk with your doctor about how taking one of these medicines will affect your chances of conceiving.

Medicines can make treating an erection problem simple and easy. But you should think carefully about whether you want to treat your erection problem before you commit to trying one of these medicines.

Being able to have an erection may not be as important to your relationship as you think. Some men find that after they are able to have erections again, the hassle of treatment isn't worth the effort. Other men find that being able to have erections doesn't change their relationship as much as they thought it would.

What do you need to know about these medicines?

Pills called phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors (Cialis, Levitra, and Viagra) are most commonly used for erection problems. These medicines work well no matter what is causing the erection problem. About 70 out of 100 men who use these medicines are able to have an erection and successfully have intercourse, and 30 out of 100 are not.1

These medicines should never be used if you may need to take a nitrate-containing medicine, such as nitroglycerin.

Talk with your doctor about whether medicines for erection problems are safe if you:

  • Have heart disease.
  • Have heart failure or low blood pressure.
  • Are taking drugs for high blood pressure.

What if you don't use these medicines to treat an erection problem?

You may be able to treat some erection problems on your own. Try these tips:

  • Change your lifestyle habits that affect erections. Don't smoke or use illegal drugs. Limit alcohol. For some men, losing weight and exercising more have been helpful.
  • Think about what is going on in your relationships and life that could be linked to your erection problems.
  • Talk with your partner about your erection problems. Couples often assume that each person knows what the other person likes when it comes to sex. But sometimes they are wrong.
  • Practice some sensual exercises with your partner.

If these things don't work for you, don't be embarrassed to talk with your doctor about other things you might try.

Compare your options

Compare

What is usually involved?









What are the benefits?









What are the risks and side effects?









Take medicine for erection problems Take medicine for erection problems
  • You take a pill before you plan to have sex.
    • Levitra and Viagra start to work as soon as 30 minutes and up to 4 hours after taking a pill.
    • Cialis starts to work as soon as 20 minutes and up to 36 hours after taking a pill.
  • The pills are simple and easy to use.
  • The pills work well for about 70 out of 100 men who use them.1
  • These medicines don't work well for about 30 out of 100 men who use them.1
  • Side effects aren't common but can include headaches, flushed skin, an upset stomach, and a stuffy nose.
  • These medicines should never be used if you may need to take a nitrate-containing medicine, such as nitroglycerin.
  • Talk with your doctor about whether these medicines are safe if you:
    • Have heart disease.
    • Have heart failure or low blood pressure.
    • Are taking medicines for high blood pressure.
  • You may have to pay for these medicines yourself if your health plan doesn't cover them.
Don't take medicine Don't take medicine
  • You try other treatment, such as changing lifestyle habits that affect erections.
  • You practice sensual exercises with your partner.
  • You talk with your partner about your erection problems. Maybe having intercourse isn't that important to your sex life.
  • You avoid the cost and risks of medicines.
  • You will probably continue to have erection problems.

Personal stories

Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. These personal stories may help you decide.

Personal stories about taking phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors

These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.

A while back it began getting more difficult for me to have erections. For my partner and me, sex is a very important part of our relationship. We are not yet ready to give this up. So we talked with our doctor. I tried one of these new medicines. I know it's a little expensive, but we are willing to spend the money to be able to continue having sex.

Marvin, age 57

When I began to have a problem getting an erection, I was pretty upset. I went right to my doctor, and he gave me a medicine to try. It worked all right for me, but he also suggested I talk about this with my wife. When we talked, I discovered she was not all that concerned about having sex as long as I gave her lots of loving attention. Finding other ways to say "I love you" has been important for both of us.

William, age 47

My partner was having trouble getting an erection. The doctor could find nothing physically wrong with him. The doctor suggested we try counseling and that my partner take a medicine that will help him get an erection. Although we weren't sure we liked the idea of counseling, my partner and I talked it over, and we went ahead and did both.

Carlita, age 62

My partner and I discussed my problem of getting an erection. We decided we just like being together. We discovered that having sex is not as important to us as it was in the past.

Nickolas, age 76

What matters most to you?

Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.

Reasons to take medicine for erection problems

Reasons not to take medicine for erection problems

Being able to have intercourse is an important part of sex for me and my partner.

Intercourse is not an important part of sex for me and my partner.

More important
Equally important
More important

I'm not worried about the side effects of medicines.

The side effects of medicines worry me.

More important
Equally important
More important

I've made lifestyle changes, and they haven't helped me with my erection problems.

I think making some lifestyle changes might help me with my erection problems.

More important
Equally important
More important

I don't mind taking pills.

I want to avoid taking pills if I can.

More important
Equally important
More important

My other important reasons:

My other important reasons:

More important
Equally important
More important

Where are you leaning now?

Now that you've thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.

Taking medicine

NOT taking medicine

Leaning toward
Undecided
Leaning toward

What else do you need to make your decision?

Check the facts

1.

Do medicines work well to treat erection problems?

  • YesYou're right. Medicines work well and are easy to use. About 70 out of 100 men who use them are able to have an erection and successfully have intercourse, and 30 out of 100 are not.
  • NoSorry, that's not right. Medicines work well and are easy to use. About 70 out of 100 men who use them are able to have an erection and successfully have intercourse, and 30 out of 100 are not.
  • I'm not sureIt may help to go back and read "Get the Facts." About 70 out of 100 men who use medicines are able to have an erection and successfully have intercourse, and 30 out of 100 are not.
2.

Can any man who is having an erection problem take these medicines?

  • YesSorry, that's not right. These medicines should never be used if you may need to take a nitrate-containing medicine, such as nitroglycerin.
  • NoYou're right. These medicines should never be used if you may need to take a nitrate-containing medicine, such as nitroglycerin.
  • I'm not sureIt may help to go back and read "Get the Facts." These medicines should never be used if you may need to take a nitrate-containing medicine, such as nitroglycerin.
3.

Can you treat some erection problems on your own?

  • YesYou're right. To treat erection problems, you can make lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking or reducing alcohol. Doing sensual exercises with your partner may also help.
  • NoSorry, that's not right. To treat erection problems, you can make lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking or reducing alcohol. Doing sensual exercises with your partner may also help.
  • I'm not sureIt may help to go back and read "Get the Facts." You can make lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking or reducing alcohol, or do sensual exercises with your partner.

Decide what's next

1.

Do you understand the options available to you?

2.

Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?

3.

Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?

Certainty

1.

How sure do you feel right now about your decision?

Not sure at all
Somewhat sure
Very sure
3.

Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.

Your Summary

Here's a record of your answers. You can use it to talk with your doctor or loved ones about your decision.

Your decision 

Next steps

Which way you're leaning

How sure you are

Your comments

Your knowledge of the facts 

Key concepts that you understood

Key concepts that may need review

Getting ready to act 

Patient choices

Credits and References

Credits
Author Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Christopher G. Wood, MD, FACS - Urology, Oncology

References
Citations
  1. Burnett AL (2012). Evaluation and management of erectile dysfunction. In AJ Wein et al., eds., Campbell-Walsh Urology, 10th ed., vol. 1, pp. 721–748. Philadelphia: Saunders.
You may want to have a say in this decision, or you may simply want to follow your doctor's recommendation. Either way, this information will help you understand what your choices are so that you can talk to your doctor about them.

Erection Problems: Should I Take Medicine?

Here's a record of your answers. You can use it to talk with your doctor or loved ones about your decision.
  1. Get the facts
  2. Compare your options
  3. What matters most to you?
  4. Where are you leaning now?
  5. What else do you need to make your decision?

1. Get the Facts

Your options

  • Take medicine for erection problems.
  • Don't take medicine. Try home treatment instead.

Key points to remember

  • There are a number of treatments for erection problems. But medicines such as Cialis, Levitra, and Viagra are usually tried first, because they work well and are easy to use. About 70 out of 100 men who use these medicines are able to have an erection and successfully have intercourse, and 30 out of 100 are not.1
  • These medicines are not an option if you have heart disease and need to take nitroglycerin or other medicines that contain nitrates.
  • If you and your partner feel that sexual intercourse is an important part of your relationship, you may want to try medicine. It's important to talk about your and your partner's sexual preferences. Couples often assume that each of them knows what the other person likes when it comes to sex. But sometimes they are wrong.
  • You may be able to treat some erection problems on your own. You can make lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking or drinking less alcohol. Doing sensual exercises with your partner may also help.
FAQs

What is an erection problem?

A man has erection problems if he repeatedly can't get or keep an erection that is firm enough for him to have sex. Erection problems are also called erectile dysfunction or impotence.

Having an erection problem doesn't mean a lack of interest in sex. And it's not the same as having an occasional problem getting or keeping an erection. That problem affects all men at some time in their lives.

Erection problems can occur at any age. But they are more common in older men, who often have other health problems. Medicine can help both older and younger men.

What causes an erection problem?

Erection problems may be caused by physical problems, such as injury to nerves or loss of blood supply to the penis .

They can also be linked to other health problems. These include diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease.

Anxiety, stress, and depression can also cause erection problems. So can medicines you take for other health problems. Men who drink too much alcohol, smoke, or use illegal drugs also are at risk for erection problems.

Why treat an erection problem?

The decision about whether to treat an erection problem is often based on personal preference. It may not be as easy as the decision about whether to treat other medical problems. Erection problems aren't life-threatening. But they can affect how you feel about yourself. They can make it hard to father a child, if that is your wish. If you are trying to have a child, you should talk with your doctor about how taking one of these medicines will affect your chances of conceiving.

Medicines can make treating an erection problem simple and easy. But you should think carefully about whether you want to treat your erection problem before you commit to trying one of these medicines.

Being able to have an erection may not be as important to your relationship as you think. Some men find that after they are able to have erections again, the hassle of treatment isn't worth the effort. Other men find that being able to have erections doesn't change their relationship as much as they thought it would.

What do you need to know about these medicines?

Pills called phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors (Cialis, Levitra, and Viagra) are most commonly used for erection problems. These medicines work well no matter what is causing the erection problem. About 70 out of 100 men who use these medicines are able to have an erection and successfully have intercourse, and 30 out of 100 are not.1

These medicines should never be used if you may need to take a nitrate-containing medicine, such as nitroglycerin.

Talk with your doctor about whether medicines for erection problems are safe if you:

  • Have heart disease.
  • Have heart failure or low blood pressure.
  • Are taking drugs for high blood pressure.

What if you don't use these medicines to treat an erection problem?

You may be able to treat some erection problems on your own. Try these tips:

  • Change your lifestyle habits that affect erections. Don't smoke or use illegal drugs. Limit alcohol. For some men, losing weight and exercising more have been helpful.
  • Think about what is going on in your relationships and life that could be linked to your erection problems.
  • Talk with your partner about your erection problems. Couples often assume that each person knows what the other person likes when it comes to sex. But sometimes they are wrong.
  • Practice some sensual exercises with your partner.

If these things don't work for you, don't be embarrassed to talk with your doctor about other things you might try.

2. Compare your options

  Take medicine for erection problems Don't take medicine
What is usually involved?
  • You take a pill before you plan to have sex.
    • Levitra and Viagra start to work as soon as 30 minutes and up to 4 hours after taking a pill.
    • Cialis starts to work as soon as 20 minutes and up to 36 hours after taking a pill.
  • You try other treatment, such as changing lifestyle habits that affect erections.
  • You practice sensual exercises with your partner.
  • You talk with your partner about your erection problems. Maybe having intercourse isn't that important to your sex life.
What are the benefits?
  • The pills are simple and easy to use.
  • The pills work well for about 70 out of 100 men who use them.1
  • You avoid the cost and risks of medicines.
What are the risks and side effects?
  • These medicines don't work well for about 30 out of 100 men who use them.1
  • Side effects aren't common but can include headaches, flushed skin, an upset stomach, and a stuffy nose.
  • These medicines should never be used if you may need to take a nitrate-containing medicine, such as nitroglycerin.
  • Talk with your doctor about whether these medicines are safe if you:
    • Have heart disease.
    • Have heart failure or low blood pressure.
    • Are taking medicines for high blood pressure.
  • You may have to pay for these medicines yourself if your health plan doesn't cover them.
  • You will probably continue to have erection problems.

Personal stories

Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. These personal stories may help you decide.

Personal stories about taking phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors

These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.

"A while back it began getting more difficult for me to have erections. For my partner and me, sex is a very important part of our relationship. We are not yet ready to give this up. So we talked with our doctor. I tried one of these new medicines. I know it's a little expensive, but we are willing to spend the money to be able to continue having sex."

— Marvin, age 57

"When I began to have a problem getting an erection, I was pretty upset. I went right to my doctor, and he gave me a medicine to try. It worked all right for me, but he also suggested I talk about this with my wife. When we talked, I discovered she was not all that concerned about having sex as long as I gave her lots of loving attention. Finding other ways to say "I love you" has been important for both of us."

— William, age 47

"My partner was having trouble getting an erection. The doctor could find nothing physically wrong with him. The doctor suggested we try counseling and that my partner take a medicine that will help him get an erection. Although we weren't sure we liked the idea of counseling, my partner and I talked it over, and we went ahead and did both."

— Carlita, age 62

"My partner and I discussed my problem of getting an erection. We decided we just like being together. We discovered that having sex is not as important to us as it was in the past."

— Nickolas, age 76

3. What matters most to you?

Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.

Reasons to take medicine for erection problems

Reasons not to take medicine for erection problems

Being able to have intercourse is an important part of sex for me and my partner.

Intercourse is not an important part of sex for me and my partner.

             
More important
Equally important
More important

I'm not worried about the side effects of medicines.

The side effects of medicines worry me.

             
More important
Equally important
More important

I've made lifestyle changes, and they haven't helped me with my erection problems.

I think making some lifestyle changes might help me with my erection problems.

             
More important
Equally important
More important

I don't mind taking pills.

I want to avoid taking pills if I can.

             
More important
Equally important
More important

My other important reasons:

My other important reasons:

   
             
More important
Equally important
More important

4. Where are you leaning now?

Now that you've thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.

Taking medicine

NOT taking medicine

             
Leaning toward
Undecided
Leaning toward

5. What else do you need to make your decision?

Check the facts

1. Do medicines work well to treat erection problems?

  • Yes
  • No
  • I'm not sure
You're right. Medicines work well and are easy to use. About 70 out of 100 men who use them are able to have an erection and successfully have intercourse, and 30 out of 100 are not.

2. Can any man who is having an erection problem take these medicines?

  • Yes
  • No
  • I'm not sure
You're right. These medicines should never be used if you may need to take a nitrate-containing medicine, such as nitroglycerin.

3. Can you treat some erection problems on your own?

  • Yes
  • No
  • I'm not sure
You're right. To treat erection problems, you can make lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking or reducing alcohol. Doing sensual exercises with your partner may also help.

Decide what's next

1. Do you understand the options available to you?

2. Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?

3. Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?

Certainty

1. How sure do you feel right now about your decision?

         
Not sure at all
Somewhat sure
Very sure

2. Check what you need to do before you make this decision.

  • I'm ready to take action.
  • I want to discuss the options with others.
  • I want to learn more about my options.

3. Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.

 
Credits
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Christopher G. Wood, MD, FACS - Urology, Oncology

References
Citations
  1. Burnett AL (2012). Evaluation and management of erectile dysfunction. In AJ Wein et al., eds., Campbell-Walsh Urology, 10th ed., vol. 1, pp. 721–748. Philadelphia: Saunders.

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