An estimated 30 million American men suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED), a condition that can lead to frustration, and the destruction of marriage as well as an individuals’ self-confidence.

While many men turn to the medicine cabinet in search of a solution for this painful ailment, it’s actually true that natural remedies and technologies may be just as effective at correcting ED. There’s the penis pump, a device growing in popularity, but there are also devices that are simple to operate with no known side effects.

What causes ED?

Alcohol consumption, bad nutrition, a sedentary lifestyle, excessive stress, psychological issues, relationship issues, use of illegal drugs and overuse of prescribed drugs, poor sleep habits and excessive physical activity are all contributing factors to ED. Ailments like diabetes, as well as low and high blood pressure, in addition to prostate cancer, may also result in ED.

 What are common over-the-counter ED medications?

According to the Mayo Clinic, oral medications are usually the first-line treatment for ED. Those medications include Sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn), tadalafil (Cialis) and avanafil (Stendra). They operate by helping relax muscles in the penis by strengthening the effects of nitric oxide, a naturally occurring chemical in the body. The drugs increase blood flow to allow patients to get an erection.

"Alcohol consumption, bad nutrition, a sedentary lifestyle, excessive stress, poor sleep habits and excessive physical activity are all contributing factors to ED."

While helpful for some people, these drugs may not be safe for those who take nitrate drugs, have low or high blood pressure, have severe liver disease, or have kidney disease. Not to mention, they may come with side effects including dizziness and fainting, a stuffy or runny nose, as well as blurred vision.  

Alternative treatments

A growing number of alternative or natural treatments for ED are being introduced in the market. Injection therapy, like the solution alprostadil—sold under the brand names Caverject, Edex and Prostin VR—as well as a suppository-form of alprostadil, sold under the name MUSE, are at patients’ disposal.

The medicine causes blood vessels to expand, increasing blood flow in the body and to the penis, thus helping patients to get an erection. Invasive surgeries that involve rods and balloons are also available to patients suffering from ED. While these treatments often come with potential side effects, discomfort and a financial burden, some ED patients may see success with them.

On the horizon

As ED has become more prevalent among the U.S. population, entrepreneurs have set out to serve this patient population by introducing a variety of non-invasive devices to help correct the condition. There’s the penis pump, which includes a plastic tube that fits over the penis and a hand or battery-powered pump attached to the tube, and a band that circles the base of the penis when it becomes erect.

While the device has become increasingly popular, some patients may find it uncomfortable and tricky to operate. Health risks may also be involved for individuals on blood-thinning drugs or those with blood disorders.

But there are also medical devices like the Elator, which is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is custom-made with medical-grade silicone based on a patient’s girth and shaft. The technology, which has no known risk factors, has two thin bars that glide along the bottom of the penis, and hold the organ partially or fully erect with a soft, flexible loop, a sliding latch and a base lock and base ring.

If you’re suffering from ED, considering all of your options before reaching for any given solution may increase your chances for success.