Impotence Treatment

Usual cure


Impotence is treatable at any age, and awareness of this fact has been growing. More men have been seeking help and returning to normal sexual activity because of improved, successful treatments for impotence. Urologists, who specialize in problems of the urinary tract, have traditionally treated impotence.
Most physicians suggest that treatments proceed from least to most invasive. Cutting back on any drugs with harmful side effects is considered first. For example, drugs for high blood pressure work in different ways. If you think a particular drug is causing problems with erection, tell your doctor and ask whether you can try a different class of blood pressure medicine.
Psychotherapy and behavior modifications in selected patients are considered next if indicated, followed by oral or locally injected drugs, vacuum devices, and surgically implanted devices. In rare cases, surgery involving veins or arteries may be considered. The increase treatment happens gradually, presumably as treatments such as vacuum devices and injectable drugs became more widely available. Perhaps the most publicized advance was the introduction of the oral drug sildenafil citrate (Viagra) in March 1998. NAMCS data on new drugs show an estimated 2.6 million mentions of Viagra at physician office visits in 1999, and one-third of those mentions occurred during visits for a diagnosis other than impotence or ED.

Psychotherapy
Experts often treat psychologically based impotence using techniques that decrease the anxiety associated with intercourse. The patient's partner can help with the techniques, which include gradual development of intimacy and stimulation. Such techniques also can help relieve anxiety when impotence from physical causes is being treated.

Drug Therapy
Drugs for treating impotence can be taken orally, injected directly into the penis, or inserted into the urethra at the tip of the penis. In March 1998, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Viagra, the first pill to treat impotence or ED. In August 2003, the FDA gave approval to a second oral medicine, vardenafil hydrochloride (Levitra). Additional oral medicines are being tested for safety and effectiveness.

Taken an hour before sexual activity, Viagra and Levitra work by enhancing the effects of nitric oxide, a chemical that relaxes smooth muscles in the penis during sexual stimulation and allows increased blood flow.

While oral medicines improve the response to sexual stimulation, they do not trigger an automatic erection as injections do. The recommended dose for Viagra is 50 mg, and the physician may adjust this dose to 100 mg or 25 mg, depending on the patient. The recommended dose for Levitra is 10 mg, and the physician may adjust this dose to 20 mg if 10 mg is insufficient. Lower doses of 5 mg and 2.5 mg are available for patients who take other medicines or have conditions that may decrease the body's ability to use Levitra.

Neither Viagra nor Levitra should be used more than once a day. Men who take nitrate-based drugs such as nitroglycerin for heart problems should not use either drug because the combination can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure. Also, Levitra should not be taken with any of the drugs called alpha-blockers, which are used to treat prostate enlargement or high blood pressure.

Oral testosterone can reduce impotence in some men with low levels of natural testosterone, but it is often ineffective and may cause liver damage. Patients also have claimed that other oral drugs--including yohimbine hydrochloride, dopamine and serotonin agonists, and trazodone--are effective, but the results of scientific studies to substantiate these claims have been inconsistent. Improvements observed following use of these drugs may be examples of the placebo effect, that is, a change that results simply from the patient's believing that an improvement will occur.

Many men achieve stronger erections by injecting drugs into the penis, causing it to become engorged with blood. Drugs such as papaverine hydrochloride, phentolamine, and alprostadil (marketed as Caverject) widen blood vessels. These drugs may create unwanted side effects, however, including persistent erection (known as priapism) and scarring. Nitroglycerin, a muscle relaxant, can sometimes enhance erection when rubbed on the penis.

A system for inserting a pellet of alprostadil into the urethra is marketed as Muse. The system uses a prefilled applicator to deliver the pellet about an inch deep into the urethra. An erection will begin within 8 to 10 minutes and may last 30 to 60 minutes. The most common side effects are aching in the penis, testicles, and area between the penis and rectum; warmth or burning sensation in the urethra; redness from increased blood flow to the penis; and minor urethral bleeding or spotting.

Research on drugs for treating impotence is expanding rapidly. Patients should ask their doctor about the latest advances.

Vacuum Devices
Mechanical vacuum devices cause erection by creating a partial vacuum, which draws blood into the penis, engorging and expanding it. The devices have three components: a plastic cylinder, into which the penis is placed; a pump, which draws air out of the cylinder; and an elastic band, which is placed around the base of the penis to maintain the erection after the cylinder is removed and during intercourse by preventing blood from flowing back into the body

One variation of the vacuum device involves a semirigid rubber sheath that is placed on the penis and remains there after erection is attained and during intercourse.

Surgery
Surgery usually has one of three goals:

· to implant a device that can cause the penis to become erect

· to reconstruct arteries to increase flow of blood to the penis

· to block off veins that allow blood to leak from the penile tissues

Implanted devices, known as prostheses, can restore erection in many men with impotence. Possible problems with implants include mechanical breakdown and infection, although mechanical problems have diminished in recent years because of technological advances.

Malleable implants usually consist of paired rods, which are inserted surgically into the corpora cavernosa. The user manually adjusts the position of the penis and, therefore, the rods. Adjustment does not affect the width or length of the penis.

Inflatable implants consist of paired cylinders, which are surgically inserted inside the penis and can be expanded using pressurized fluid (see figure 3). Tubes connect the cylinders to a fluid reservoir and a pump, which are also surgically implanted. The patient inflates the cylinders by pressing on the small pump, located under the skin in the scrotum. Inflatable implants can expand the length and width of the penis somewhat. They also leave the penis in a more natural state when not inflated.

Surgery to repair arteries can reduce impotence caused by obstructions that block the flow of blood. The best candidates for such surgery are young men with discrete blockage of an artery because of an injury to the crotch or fracture of the pelvis. The procedure is almost never successful in older men with widespread blockage.

Surgery to veins that allow blood to leave the penis usually involves an opposite procedure--intentional blockage. Blocking off veins (ligation) can reduce the leakage of blood that diminishes the rigidity of the penis during erection. However, experts have raised questions about the long-term effectiveness of this procedure, and it is rarely done.

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