How to Fix Erectile Dysfunction

Ways to treat erectile dysfunction

Last reviewed: 26 Jun 2019

Man researching how to fix erectile dysfunction

Key takeaways

  • There may be lots of different reasons why you’re experiencing erectile dysfunction (ED)

  • There are 4 main ways to treat ED

  • Some options can work quickly but others are longer-term fixes

Contents of this article
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It’s normal to occasionally have problems getting or keeping erections. But if you find this happens at least half of the time you’re having sex, you may be experiencing erectile dysfunction (ED).

There are 4 main ways to treat ED:

  • Taking medication
  • Making lifestyle changes
  • Having sex therapy
  • Using devices

What can you do to fix erectile dysfunction?

It’s a good idea to discuss what you’re experiencing with a doctor or nurse before you decide how you want to treat it. A doctor will review any medical conditions you have, and any medications you’re taking, to see if they might be causing your ED, or making it worse. ED can also be a symptom of some medical problems.

You should not combine ED medications, and you should only take one type at any one time. But you can combine medication with making lifestyle changes and talking to someone about the problem. Combining treatments like this can often prove more successful than one treatment alone.

Medical treatments

Most people looking to treat ED choose medications called PDE-5 inhibitors. These include:

  • Viagra (also available as Viagra Connect or Sildenafil) – this is the most well-known ED medicine
  • Cialis (also available as Tadalafil) – this medicine is long-lasting, with some men reporting that they still feel the effects up to a day and a half after taking it. It also comes in the form of tablets that you can take every day, called Cialis Daily
  • Levitra – this is similar to Viagra
  • Spedra – this works the quickest, with some men reporting that they feel the effects as fast as 15 minutes after taking it

Other types of medication are also available. Some of these are creams that you rub onto your penis, and others are injected into your penis. The active ingredient in these treatments is alprostadil. Alprostadil is available as an injection under the brand name Caverject.

Lifestyle changes

Certain lifestyle changes can mean that it’s easier to get and keep erections. Some men find that they do not need to do anything else to fix their ED. These changes include:

  • eating a balanced diet, high in fibre and low in saturated fats
  • keeping to a healthy weight for your size
  • exercising 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week
  • stopping smoking
  • cutting down on alcohol, especially if you’re about to have sex
  • doing pelvic floor exercises
  • reducing stress
  • not taking illegal drugs

Sex therapy

Talking to someone is helpful for some people, especially if their ED is caused by factors like anxiety or other mental health conditions. That could be a friend or family member, or someone who works in healthcare, like a doctor.

There are also counsellors who specialise in sex therapy. It’s a good idea to choose a therapist who’s registered with the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Devices

Some devices can help you get and maintain an erection. They work in various ways:

  • Vacuum pumps encourage blood flow to the penis
  • Penis rings stop blood from flowing out of the penis
  • Penile implants are placed inside the penis to make it firm. You need surgery to have an implant and they’re usually only chosen as a treatment when it’s clear other methods are not working

Natural or herbal remedies

Natural and herbal remedies for erectile dysfunction may not be safe and they’re not likely to treat the condition properly. They’re not regulated like medical treatments and usually contain little or no active ingredients.

Why do erections stop working?

The causes of erection problems are different for different people. Sometimes, more than one reason causes erectile dysfunction (ED).

Blood flow

You must have good blood flow to the penis for a successful erection. Your ED might be caused by poor blood flow if you:

  • never get strong enough erections
  • do not get an erection when you masturbate
  • do not get erections in the night or early morning

Conditions like diabetes can make this worse.

Mental health

If you’re experiencing anxiety or have a mental health condition like depression, this can be a cause of ED. This might be the case if:

  • your erection strength comes and goes
  • you can get an erection when you masturbate
  • you can get erections in the night or early morning

Physical or nerve problems

Problems with your penis and the surrounding area are less common causes of ED. Conditions like Peyronie’s disease can cause weaker erections. You might have these problems if:

  • your penis looks different from normal
  • feelings in your penis have changed

Passing situations

Day-to-day activities can make a difference to ED. For example, if you’re very tired, stressed, have drunk too much alcohol, or are very anxious, you’re more likely to have problems with erections.

What is the quickest way to fix erectile dysfunction?

Options that can work quickly:

  • Avoid drinking alcohol, especially if you’re about to have sex. You may notice an immediate improvement in your erections if you normally drink heavily before sex
  • Try to lower your stress and make sure you’ve had enough sleep

Medication can also start to work very quickly. In some cases though, it might take up to 8 separate times of taking it for your body to respond. It’s also possible to see results quickly if you switch medication when the one you’re taking isn’t working.

The fastest ways to get medication are:

  • Use Zava's online consultation service. You can get medication by next-day delivery, or collect it from a local post office
  • A pharmacist can prescribe you Viagra Connect after a short consultation
  • A GP can prescribe medication

Which erectile dysfunction fixes work long term?

What works for you long term will depend on the problems causing your ED.

Lifestyle changes – some people find that lifestyle changes are enough to stop the problem, but it can take a while for the changes to have an effect.

Mental health problems – if your ED is linked to a mental health condition like anxiety or depression, therapy can be a way to work through situations and get to the root of the problem.

Other conditions – finding out if you have a separate condition like diabetes or heart disease, which might be causing your ED, can allow for a long-term fix if you’re able to treat the other condition.

Medication – ED medication can be safe to take in the long term. There are currently differing opinions on whether ED medicines stop working over time but this does not seem to be a problem for most people.

There’s no guaranteed, permanent way to ‘cure’ ED. This is partly because as you age, you’re more likely to get ED symptoms. This might mean that even if you’ve successfully kept your erectile dysfunction under control in the past, you may get ED symptoms again as you get older. Also, there are lots of factors that cause ED. So, one factor that doesn’t affect you right now might do so in the future.

Can I train my erection to work better?

You might find you have better erections through exercise:

  • Aim to do moderate exercise like walking for 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week. This will improve the general blood flow around your body, including your penis. Exercising can also help with self-confidence, keeping to a healthy weight, and getting other medical conditions under control
  • Pelvic floor exercises train the muscles that help support the penis. Regularly training these muscles can improve blood flow, which improves erections
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Dr Kathryn Basford is a qualified GP who works as a GP in London, as well as with Zava. She graduated from the University of Manchester and completed her GP training through Whipps Cross Hospital in London.

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Last reviewed: 26 Jun 2019

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