External Penile Prostheses for Erectile Dysfunction Treatment

doctor talking to male patient
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There are a growing number of erectile dysfunction treatments available for men experiencing trouble with sexual performance. The most well known of these treatments are PDE-5 inhibitors such as Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra. These medical erectile dysfunction treatments use pills to help men maintain an erection after physical stimulation. However, they don't work for all men, nor are they appropriate for men with certain medical conditions. Other treatments for moderate levels of erectile dysfunction include vacuum pumps, which suck blood into the penis and injections of the corpus cavernosa. 

For men who are not capable of getting an erection at all, penile prostheses are an option. This type of erectile dysfunction treatment requires surgery to implant a flexible or inflatable device inside the penis. Although penile prostheses work very well in some circumstances, they're not appropriate for everyone. Some people have no interest in surgery. Others are concerned about the fact that many penile prostheses require revision surgery. The devices were designed for older men with limited sexual activity. In younger, more sexually active men, they may need one or more replacements.

Enter the option of external penile prostheses for erectile dysfunction treatment. This is a novel group of devices that can be used by men who want the option of penetrating a partner without surgery and without the use of medications. These devices can also be used by men for whom surgery and medications are not appropriate. For example, transgender men who have undergone phalloplasty and do not want an implant are not suitable candidates for medication treatment, but they can use an external penile prosthesis.

Types of External Penile Prostheses

External penile prostheses are not necessarily medical devices. Some can be purchased over the counter or from specialty sex stores. Others can be sourced through a sexual health professional or a doctor.

There are basically two types of external penile support. The first is generally referred to as a penis sleeve. This is basically a hollow penis-shaped device that can be slipped on over the penis. Not all penis sleeves are designed for men with erectile dysfunction. However, there are several that have been designed to work as erectile dysfunction treatments.

If you are looking for a penis sleeve, make certain the description states it's appropriate for use with a flaccid penis or that it can be used for men with erectile dysfunction. Otherwise, you may not be happy with your purchase. Of note, penis sleeves can either be used on their own or with a harness. Men with ED may prefer to use a harness-based device for comfort and ease of positioning the penis for penetration. The harness keeps the device in place during intercourse.

The second type of external penis support is a rod and ring support mechanism. As of early 2018, the only device of this type is marketed as The Elator/Erektor. This device uses two custom-fitted rings around the base and head of the penis that are connected by a rigid rod. The rod holds the glans of the penis away from the base of the penis to create a simulated erection rigid enough for penetration.

Unfortunately, external penile prostheses are not cheap. The devices range from $200-700 dollars, and they may not work well for all men. That means that purchasing them can be a bit of a gamble. As such, you should do as much research as you can to make certain that your expectations for any prosthesis are realistic. However, if an external prosthesis is the right choice for you, it can be a good investment for your sex life. When they do work well they are reusable, and they allow many men to enjoy penetrative sex with a partner without needing to worry about erectile function. 

A Word From Verywell

No single erectile dysfunction treatment is going to be the right option for all men with ED. One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a treatment is how and when you want to engage in penetrative sex. This requires not just knowledge of your own desires, but also communication with your sexual partners.

Some couples can have very satisfying sexual lives without penetration. Others need penetrative sex to feel connected, but that penetration may not have to be with a penis. They may enjoy fingering, fisting, or using sex toys. Still others find it very important to resume sexual intercourse but have strong feelings about which erectile dysfunction treatments feel right to them. The only way to know is to talk about it. 

Being upfront about your needs and desires for erectile dysfunction treatment is beneficial in another way. When your partner is on board with your treatment, they can make using your treatment part of sexual play. That's true whether your erectile dysfunction treatment is a pill, an injection, or a prosthesis.

Realistically speaking, the most important factor in how well an erectile dysfunction treatment will work is how it fits within the context of a couple's intimate life. After all, no matter how good an ED treatment is on paper, it only works when people feel comfortable using it. That takes work. But the good news is, this type of practice can be both enjoyable and erotic. Indeed, it should be. Just as safe sex works best when people find ways to eroticize it, so does erectile dysfunction treatment. ED doesn't have to be a limitation. It can be an invitation to explore new pathways of intimacy and pleasure.

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