Scientists are always looking to develop and test new treatments for erectile dysfunction (ED). They typically base new treatments on existing ones that currently include oral medications, injections, and devices.
Scientists often develop new treatments and therapies by applying new methods and technologies to existing treatments. However, they are also developing different treatment options for ED, such as stem cell therapy.
This article discusses the current, emerging, and future treatments for ED.
There are currently five oral medications that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved for the treatment of ED.
Doctors in the United States typically prescribe these as first-line treatments.
These drugs are PDE5 inhibitors, which help relax the muscles and increase blood flow to the penis.
In the early 2000s, doctors in Europe prescribed Uprima (apomorphine) for a while, but the manufacturer did not renew its marketing authorization and withdrew the drug in 2006.
However, ongoing research is looking at using this medication in combination with standard PDE5 inhibitors.
For the foreseeable future, doctors will likely continue to prescribe PDE5 inhibitors as first-line therapy.
Learn more about drugs for treating ED here.
In Europe, doctors often prescribe creams for treating ED as a secondary treatment option.
The formulas use alprostadil, a medication currently found in ED injections in the U.S. However, the FDA has not yet approved the use of alprostadil in cream form.
Researchers suggest alprostadil topical cream provides a safer alternative to oral PDE5 inhibitors for people taking alpha-blockers, antihypertensive agents, or nitrates.
However, scientists need to do more research to understand the effects of this cream on the body.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy involves injecting platelet-rich plasma into the body to help repair tissue and grow additional blood vessels.
Although the FDA have not yet approved PRP therapy, a 2018 article suggests that it may become available once researchers have tested it thoroughly for effectiveness and safety.
A 2020 review observed that some small studies found that PRP therapy could be a promising treatment for ED and that people tolerate it well.
However, researchers note that additional studies with larger sample sizes are needed to support these findings.
Also, scientists need to standardize what constitutes platelet-rich plasma, as it appears that some researchers develop and use a unique agent.
Vacuum erectile devices (penis pumps) and penis implants are good options for people who cannot take medication or want a non-invasive option.
Although these devices are not new, researchers have improved the implants over the years to reduce infection rates and enhance device durability.
A few potential options include:
- Malleable penile implants: A doctor will surgically implant small sections of hard rods into the penis. These rods will remain hard.
- Inflatable implants: A doctor will surgically place these implants in the penis. A person can inflate the implant for sexual activity and then deflate it afterward.
Scientists are currently assessing the use of stem cell therapy as a treatment for ED. According to a 2016 review, several preliminary studies and four clinical trials found that stem cell therapy could be an effective treatment for ED.
In some cases, ED is due to damaged endothelial cells that line the blood vessel walls. This typically means that a person cannot achieve or sustain an erection.
Stem cell therapy involves introducing stem cells into the body that can proliferate into healthy endothelial cells and help reverse ED.
Researchers still need to conduct additional studies to understand the effectiveness and safety of this therapy.
Some people also have concerns about the acquisition of stem cells, their preparation, and their delivery. Until scientists can answer these questions, it is unlikely that stem cell therapy will become a widely accepted treatment method for ED.
If a person cannot take oral medication for ED, there are other treatments available.
- physical therapy
- penile implants
- intraurethral suppositories
- vacuum devices
If another condition or medication is causing ED, treating the underlying condition or stopping a medication might restore normal functioning.
Certain lifestyle changes might also benefit ED.
Some tips from Harvard Health Publishing to help alleviate or prevent ED include:
- staying physically active
- maintaining a healthful weight
- keeping blood pressure and blood sugar levels within a normal range
- eating a diet with lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins
- performing kegel exercises and other pelvic focused exercises
A person should talk to their doctor if they are having trouble getting or maintaining an erection. A doctor can review a person’s medical history and recommend treatment options that may work for them.
If someone still has difficulty maintaining an erection while taking medication for ED, they should talk to their doctor about their concerns. They may need a dose adjustment or another therapy option that could be more suitable.
If a person takes ED medication and has an erection lasting for 4 hours, they should seek emergency medical treatment.
New ED therapies are being developed and assessed for their effectiveness and safety. A person should talk to their doctor about the best medications or therapies that could help them have and maintain an erection.