Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, is common but troubling for some men. Those who suffer this problem have difficulty getting and keeping an erection that is satisfactory for sexual activities. All men experience impotence from time to time. When ED is an ongoing problem, it can cause emotional stress, relationship problems, and self-confidence issues.
Sometimes, erectile dysfunction is due to a medical condition. Treating the underlying problem may reverse the impotence. If this does not help, men can try medications or direct treatment to improve erectile dysfunction. Penile injection therapy is one of the most effective ED treatments today.
What Is Penile Injection Therapy?
Penile injection therapy is a self-injection method of treatment for erectile dysfunction. With this method, men use a fine needle to inject medication into the base or side of their penis. Alprostadil, papaverine, and phentolamine are the medications used to treat ED. Vascular surgeons have used some of these drugs for years to treat Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and for dementia treatment (including Alzheimer's disease).
Alprostadil, the most popular of the three, is a generic vasodilator. Caverject, Edex and Muse are common brand names for this drug. By dilating the blood vessels in the penis, alprostadil increases blood flow and produces an erection.
For most men, an erection occurs within five to fifteen minutes after an injection. Men must learn to self-inject each time they want to engage in sexual activities. The erections produced by penile injection therapy can last for up to an hour, or until ejaculation and orgasm.
Learning How to Self-Inject
With penile injection therapy, the first injection is performed by a doctor who uses it for diagnosis and for determining the best treatment dose. The doctor tailors future doses to the patient's response to the first injection. After the initial treatment, men learn to perform self-injections under the doctor's watchful eye.
With coaching and practice, men can learn to perform self-injections at home. Most men get used to the needle sensation over time. To minimize pain, they can alternate the injection site between the left and right sides of the penis. Most doctors limit penile injections to twelve times per month.
Injection Therapy Side Effects
Because penile injection therapy uses a fine needle, the pain is usually minor. Most men report a mild to moderate ache a few minutes after an injection. Standing usually increases the pain, but it subsides when an erection ends. Doctors think the pain is due to potassium in the treatment medication.
Other side effects include bleeding at the injection site, a prolonged erection, and scarring in the penis. Any time a needle is inserted into the body, it can cause a small bruise. Prolonged injections can cause a lump, nodule, or hematoma to develop. In rare cases, they can also cause a buildup of scar tissue.
Occasionally, ED medications can cause prolonged erections known as priapism. This rare but painful condition involves an erection that lasts for more than four hours. Although it requires immediate medical attention, early treatment can reverse the condition.