Posts Tagged ‘ED medications’

Practical Approach To Erectile Dysfunction

September 16, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD  9/16/17

shutterstock_side view manjpeg

ED is a highly prevalent condition and a common reason for a urology consultation.  A pragmatic approach to its diagnosis and treatment–the topic of today’s entry–has always worked well for my patients.  A practical approach starts with simple and sensible measures, and only in the event that these are not successful, proceeding with more complex and involved strategies, dividing management options into four tiers of complexity. 

 Principles to managing male sexual issues are the following:

  • If it ‘ain’t broke,’ don’t fix it: “First do no harm.”
  • Educate to enable informed decisions: “The best prescription is knowledge.”
  • Try simple, conservative options before complex and aggressive ones: “Simple is good.”
  • Healthy lifestyle is vital: “Genes load the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger.”

Questions that need to be asked in order to evaluate ED include the following:

AS and DM

  • How long has your problem been present?
  • Was the onset sudden or gradual?
  • How is your sexual desire?
  • How is your erection quality on a scale of 0-5 (0 = flaccid; 5 = rigid)?
  • Can you achieve an erection capable of penetration?
  • Is your problem obtaining an erection, maintaining an erection, or both?
  • Is your problem situational? Consistent? Variable?
  • Are nocturnal, early morning and spontaneous erections present?
  • Do you have a bend or deformity to the erect penis?
  • How confident are you about your ability to complete the sexual act?
  • Are there ejaculation issues (rapid, delayed, painful, inability)?
  • Do you have symptoms of low testosterone?
  • What treatments have been tried?

Of equal relevance are medical, nutritional, exercise and surgical history, medications, and use of tobacco, alcohol and recreational drugs.  A tailored physical includes blood pressure, pulses and an exam of the penis, testes and prostate.  Basic lab tests including urinalysis, serum glucose, HbA1c, lipid profile and testosterone.

Information derived from the evaluation as described above will provide a working diagnosis and the ability to formulate a treatment approach.  Although a nuanced and individualized approach is always best, four lines of treatment for ED are defined—from simple to complex—in a similar way that four lines of treatment can be considered for arthritis.  For arthritis of the knee, for example, first-line therapy is weight loss to lessen the mechanical stress on the joint, in conjunction with physical therapy and muscle strengthening exercises. Second-line therapy is anti-inflammatory and other oral medications that can help alleviate the pain and inflammation. Third-line therapy is injections of steroids and other formulations.  Fourth-line therapy is surgery.

If the initial evaluation indicates a high likelihood that the ED is largely psychological/emotional in origin, referral to a qualified psychologist/counselor is often in order.  If the lab evaluation is indicative of low testosterone, additional hormone blood tests to determine the precise cause of the low testosterone are done prior to consideration for treatment aimed at getting the testosterone in normal range.  If the lab evaluation demonstrates unrecognized or poorly controlled diabetes or a risky lipid and cholesterol profile, appropriate medical referral is important.

Practical treatment of ED

elephant penis
 Credit for photo above goes to one of my patients; note the 7 prodigious appendages!

First-line: Lifestyle makeover

 A healthy lifestyle can “reverse” ED naturally, as opposed to “managing” it. ED can be considered a “chronic disease,” and as such, changes in diet and lifestyle can reverse it, prevent its progression and even prevent its onset.

My initial approach is to think “big picture” (and not just one particular aspect of the body working poorly).  Since sexual functioning is based upon many body components working harmoniously (central and peripheral nerve system, hormone system, blood vessel system, smooth and skeletal muscles), the first-line approach is to do what nurtures every cell, tissue and organ in the body. This translates to getting down to “fighting” weight, adopting a heart-healthy and penis-healthy diet (whole foods, nutrient-dense, calorie-light, avoiding processed and refined junk foods), exercising moderately, losing the tobacco habit, consuming alcohol in moderation, managing stress (yoga, meditation, massage, hot baths, whatever it takes, etc.), and getting adequate quantity and quality of sleep. Aside from general exercises (cardio, core, strength and flexibility training), specific pelvic floor muscle exercises (“man-Kegels”) are beneficial to improve the strength, power and endurance of the penile “rigidity” muscles.

If a healthy lifestyle can be adopted, sexual function will often improve dramatically, in parallel to overall health improvements. Many medications have side effects that negatively impact sexual function. A bonus of improved lifestyle is potentially allowing lower dosages or elimination of medications (blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetic meds, etc.), which can further improve sexual function.

“The food you eat is so profoundly instrumental to your health that breakfast, lunch and dinner are in fact exercises in medical decision making.”  Thomas Campbell MD


healthy meal

Above: A nice, healthy meal consisting of salmon, salad, veggies and quinoa


fat belly

Above: Not the kind of belly you want–visceral obesity is a virtual guarantee of pre-diabetes–if not diabetes–and greatly increases one’s risk of cardiovascular disease, including ED

Bottom line: Drop pounds, eat better, move more, stress less, sleep soundly = love better!

Second-line: ED pills and mechanical devices

In my opinion, the oral ED medications should be reserved for when lifestyle optimization fails to improve the sexual issues. This may be at odds with other physicians who find it convenient to simply prescribe meds, and with patients who want the quick and easy fix.  However, as good as Viagra, Levitra, Cialis and Stendra may be, they are expensive, have side effects, are not effective for every patient and cannot be used in everyone, as there are medical situations and medications that you might be on that preclude their use. In the second-line category, I also include the mechanical, non-pharmacological, non-surgical devices, including the Viberect and the vacuum suction devices.

Viagra (Sildenefil). Available in three doses—25, 50, and 100 mg—it is taken on demand and once swallowed, it will increase penile blood flow and produce an erection in most men within 30-60 minutes if they are sexually stimulated, and will remain active for up to 8 hours.

 Levitra (Vardenefil). Similar to Viagra, it is available in 5, 10, and 20 mg doses. Its effectiveness and side effect profile is similar to Viagra.

Cialis (Tadalafil).  Available in 2.5, 5 mg, 10mg, and 20 mg doses, its effectiveness and side effect profile is similar to Viagra. Its duration of action is approximately 36 hours, which has earned it the nickname of “the weekender.” Daily lower doses of Cialis are also FDA-approved for the management of urinary symptoms due to benign prostate enlargement.

Stendra (Avanafil). Similar to Viagra, it is available in 50, 100 and 200 mg doses. Its advantage is rapid onset.

Vacuum suction device                                                                                                                          This is a mechanical means of producing an erection in which the penis is placed within a plastic cylinder connected to a manual or battery-powered vacuum. The negative pressure engorges the penis with blood and a constriction band is temporarily placed around the base of the penis to maintain the erection.

Viberect device                                                                                                                               Initially employed as a means of triggering ejaculation in men with spinal cord injuries using vibrational energy, it has achieved wider use in provoking erections in men with ED. The device has dual arms that are placed in direct contact with the penile shaft. The vibratory stimulation will cause an erection and ultimately induce ejaculation.

Third-line: Vasodilating (increase blood flow) urethral suppositories and penile injections

These drugs are not pills, but other formulations (suppositories and injections) that increase penile blood flow and induce an erection.

M.U.S.E. (Medical urethral system for erection).  This is a vasodilator pellet—available in 125, 250, 500, and 1000 microgram dosages—that is placed into the urinary channel after urinating.  Absorption occurs through the urethra into the adjacent erectile chambers, inducing increased penile blood flow and potentially an erection.

Caverject and Edex (Prostaglandin E1) are vasodilators that when injected directly into the erectile chambers result in increased blood flow and erectile rigidity. After one is taught the technique of self-injection, the medication can be used on demand, resulting in rigid and durable erections.  A combination of medications can be used for optimal results– this combination is known as Trimix and consists of Papaverine, Phentolamine, and Alprostadil.

Fourth-line: Penile implants

There are two types of these devices that are surgically implanted into the erectile chambers under anesthesia, most often on an outpatient basis. Penile implants are totally internal, with no visible external parts, and aim to provide sufficient penile rigidity to permit vaginal penetration.

The semi-rigid device is a simple one-piece flexible unit consisting of paired rods that are implanted into the erectile chambers. The penis with implanted flexible rods is bent up for sexual intercourse and bent down for concealment. The inflatable device is a three-piece unit that is capable of inflation and deflation. Inflatable inner tubes are implanted within the erectile chambers, a fluid reservoir is implanted behind the pubic bone and a control pump in the scrotum, adjacent to the testes. When the patient desires an erection, he pumps the control pump several times, which transfers fluid from the reservoir to the inflatable inner tubes, creating a hydraulic erection which can be used for as long as desired. When the sexual act is completed, he deflates the mechanism via the control pump, transferring fluid back to the reservoir.

Penile implants can be a life changer for a man who cannot achieve a sustainable erection. They provide the necessary penile rigidity to have intercourse whenever and for however long that is desirable.


Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a practicing physician and urological surgeon board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  Dr. Siegel serves as Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community that is in such dire need of bridging.


Viagra, Levitra, Cialis or Stendra: Which ED Med Is Right For You?

July 1, 2016

Andrew Siegel MD  7/1/2016


Cartoon by my patient/artist Ben Blank given to me shortly after  Viagra became available in 1998.  It says it all!

There are lots of options available if you are having erection problems. In my humble opinion, healthy lifestyle measures should always be considered first-line: weight management, healthy eating, exercise (including cardio, strength, core and pelvic floor), sufficient sleep, avoidance of tobacco, excessive alcohol and excessive stress, etc. With respect to ED medications, there are now many choices. Today’s entry will discuss which of the ED meds is best for you.

How the Penis Erects

In an erotic situation, nerves to the penis release nitric oxide that then causes the release of cGMP, resulting in blood flooding into the erectile chambers of the penis, the basis of an erection. As the erection gets fuller, penile veins become compressed, limiting the exit of blood and ultimately the pelvic floor/perineal muscles engage to cause maximal erectile rigidity.

How the Penis Becomes Flaccid

After ejaculation, the enzyme PDE-5 (phosphodiesterase) is released, the chemical mediator of flaccidity. It results in decreased levels of cGMP, resulting in a loss of the erection and a return to flaccid status.

ED Meds

The ED medications include Viagra, Cialis, Levitra and Stendra. They work by inhibiting PDE-5 and are known as PDE-5 inhibitors. Effective for many men with ED, they result in enhanced erectile function, sexual satisfaction and quality of life.

They are taken orally, require some time to get absorbed and necessitate sexual stimulation to work effectively. Although they can result in some increase in penile fullness (tumescence) without sexual stimulation, sexual stimulation is a must in order to induce a fully rigid erection.

Although effective for many men, they will not work for everyone.  If there is significant nerve or vascular compromise to the penis, they will likely be ineffective. It is important to know that the same ED drug at the same dose may work variably depending on the particular time and situation, sometimes more effectively than at other times since there are so many factors that determine erectile rigidity.

Men who are taking nitrates of any kind should never use the ED meds or serious consequences may result, including a dramatic drop in blood pressure (Remember Jack Nicholson in “Something’s Gotta Give”?). All of these ED drugs are metabolized in the liver for breakdown by the body.

Viagra (Sildenefil) This was the first of the group, released in 1998. Dosed at 25, 50 or 100 mg, the half-life (the amount of time it takes for the blood level of the drug to drop by 50%) is about 4 hours. It is taken on demand and kicks in in 15-60 minutes and remains active for 4 or more hours.

Viagra trivia:  Viagra was discovered by chance. Pfizer scientists conducted a clinical trial with an experimental medicine that causes blood vessels to dilate in an effort to treat high blood pressure and chest pain. The medication did not work particularly well for the intended purposes, but had a side effect in that it dramatically improved erections. When the study ended, the participants were profoundly disturbed that the drug was no longer available. The rest is history.

More Viagra trivia: The name Viagra was born as a fusion of the words “vigor” (physical strength) and “Niagara” (the most powerful waterfall in North America).

Even more Viagra trivia: Viagra is not only used for ED. A 20 mg dose is effective for children with pulmonary hypertension, a condition in which the blood vessels in the lungs have abnormally high blood pressures.

The most common side effects of Viagra are headache, facial flushing, upset stomach, and nasal stuffiness. Less frequent side effects are temporary changes in color vision, sensitivity to light, and blurry vision.

Levitra (Vardenefil) This drug came to market in 2003 and is very similar to Viagra, available in 10 mg and 20 mg doses. The effectiveness and side effect profile is similar to Viagra; however, there are no reports of visual distortions as side effects. It is taken on demand and has an onset of about 25 minutes and has a half-life of about 4 hours and remains active for 4 or more hours.

Levitra trivia: The name Levitra derives from “elevate”; in French “le” indicates masculinity and “vitra” suggests vitality.

More Levitra trivia: Levitra is also formulated in a minty, dissolves-in-your-mouth 10mg formulation called Staxyn.

Cialis (Tadalafil) This was FDA approved in 2003 and is available in 2.5, 5, 10, and 20 mg doses. The effectiveness and side effect profile is similar to Viagra. Uniquely, Cialis has a long duration of action that has earned it the nickname “the weekender” as it can be taken on Friday evening and remain effective for the remainder of the weekend without the need for an additional dose. This affords a considerable advantage in terms of spontaneity. Cialis is either taken on demand (usually 10 or 20 mg, although 5 mg can be effective as well) or on a daily basis (2.5 or 5 mg) and has an onset of 15-45 minutes and remains active for 36 or more hours.

Cialis trivia: Cialis is also approved to treat children with pulmonary hypertension.

In 2012, daily Cialis (2.5 and 5 mg) was FDA approved for the management of urinary symptoms due to benign prostate enlargement.

Cialis, on occasion, can cause backaches and other muscle aches. Cialis is not affected by eating fatty meals, which can slow the absorption of the alternative ED meds.

Stendra (Avanafril) This was FDA approved in 2012. Available in 50, 100 and 200 mg doses, it has the advantage of a rapid onset of action. It is taken on demand and has an onset of about 10 minutes and remains active for 6 or more hours. It seems to have lower rates of hypotension when nitrates are co-administered.

Stendra trivia:  The name Stendra probably is a derivative of the word “extends.”

My Take

I have been in urology practice since 1988 and have plenty of clinical experience managing ED with these meds. In my opinion, Viagra 100 mg is the most potent of the group, but will also incur the most side effects, particularly facial flushing and potentially a nasty headache. Levitra is very similar in most respects to Viagra. Cialis is overall the best of the bunch because of its long duration, the spontaneity factor, the ability to take it with a fatty meal and its dual utility of helping urination as well as sexual function. The downside to Cialis is the occasional muscle aches. Stendra’s rapid onset gives it a small advantage.

Many men are capable of functioning satisfactorily without any of these medications, but find that taking a “recreational dose” of Cialis 5 mg enhances erectile capability and takes 20 years or more off the functional age of the penis. It is particularly useful for those with performance anxiety.


These drugs have gradually increased in price to the point where they are ridiculously expensive, unaffordable for many. None of the ED meds are yet generic. They typically retail for $40 or more per pill.

Tip of the Day: Viagra 20 mg (for pulmonary hypertension in children) is now generic and significantly less expensive than the branded variety and can be used for ED (taking up to 5 pills) at significant savings.

Bottom Line: The arrival of this class of medication in 1998 revolutionized the management of erectile dysfunction. Each of the available ED medications in this class is effective in improving erectile dysfunction issues for most men. There are subtle differences among the four that provide potential advantages and disadvantages. Trial and error will determine what works best for your needs.

Wishing you the best of health and a wonderful Independence Day weekend,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health– and MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health available on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, B&N Nook and Kobo; paperback edition available at

Author page on Amazon:

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Trailer for The Kegel Fix: 

Co-creator of Private Gym and PelvicRx: comprehensive, interactive, FDA-registered follow-along male pelvic floor muscle training programs. Built upon the foundational work of Dr. Kegel, these programs empower men to increase pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, power, and endurance: or Amazon.  In the works is the female PelvicRx pelvic floor muscle training DVD. 

Pelvic Rx can be obtained at, an online store home to quality urology products for men and women. Use promo code “UROLOGY10” at checkout for 10% discount. 

Penile Implants

February 27, 2016

Andrew Siegel MD 2/27/16

With respect to male sexual dysfunction,  implantation of a penile prosthesis is a highly effective procedure capable of restoring erectile function in those men who do not respond to simpler treatment measures.  In many ways it is as quality-of-life-restoring as a total knee replacement is to one suffering with arthritis, converting a penile “cripple” into a functional male with restored erections and resolution of the psychological and emotional devastation resulting from loss of manhood.

There are two principles that can be pretty much applied to all situations in life:

  1. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. (Pardon the English.)
  2. If it is broken, try the simple and conservative before the complex and aggressive.

These concepts are commonly applied to medical issues in general and male sexual dysfunction in specific.  If erections are satisfactory, no treatment is necessary (but maintaining a healthy lifestyle will sure help keep things that way).   However, if erections are flimsy and feeble, the following sensible tiered strategy is in order:

First-Line Approach

Lifestyle makeover. This includes a heart-healthy (and penis-healthy) diet, getting down to “fighting” weight, exercising regularly, drinking alcohol moderately, avoiding tobacco, minimizing stress, getting enough sleep, etc. Aside from general exercises (cardio, core, strength training, flexibility), specific pelvic floor muscle exercises (“man-Kegels”) are beneficial to improve the strength, power and endurance of the penile “rigidity” muscles.

Second-Line Approach

ED meds/Penile vibratory stimulation therapy/Penile pump.  Viagra, Cialis, Levitra and Stendra are pharmacological options.  As an alternative to medications, penile vibratory nerve stimulation (Viberect device) can be an effective means of helping resurrect erectile function. Alternatively, the vacuum suction device is a means of drawing blood into the penis to obtain an erection; the system uses a constriction band to maintain the erection.

Third-Line Approach

Urethral suppositories/Penile injection therapy. Suppositories are medicated pellets that are placed in the urethra (urinary channel) that  increase penile blood flow and induce an erection. Penile injections of vasodilator medications do the same and more effectively so, but require the medication to be injected directly into the penile erectile chambers. (Blog on this subject forthcoming next week.)

Fourth-Line Approach

Penile implant. This is a device made of synthetic materials that is surgically implanted under anesthesia, typically on an outpatient basis. It is totally internal, with no visible external parts and aims to provide sufficient penile rigidity to permit vaginal penetration. For the right man under the appropriate circumstances the penile implant can be a life changer.

There are two types of penile implants: semi-rigid and inflatable. I liken the difference between these two implants to the distinction between a Volkswagon and Mercedes, both effective and functional, but one with many more “bells and whistles.”

A semi-rigid penile implant (a.k.a. malleable implant) is a “static” implant that always remains rigid, not unlike the os penis (penis bone) present in many primates, except that this implant can be hinged. It is bent upwards to put it to use and is bent downwards to conceal it. It consists of two cylinders that are implanted within the penile erectile chambers through a small incision.


(Coloplast semi-rigid penile implant)

The advantage of the semi-rigid implant is its simplicity, the fact that it is less expensive than an inflatable device and its utility for handicapped patients with dexterity issues or those who have limited reaches. Its disadvantage is that it cannot go from a flaccid state to an inflated state as can the inflatable penile implant, thus creating some potential issues with concealment. Furthermore, by virtue of the constant pressure of the implant on the soft tissues of the penis, it can be more uncomfortable than the inflatable variety and has the potential for thinning the penile flesh.

The inflatable penile implant (IPP) is a “dynamic” device designed to mimic the characteristics of a normal erection, with the capacity to inflate and deflate by virtue of a self-contained hydraulic system. Dual cylinders (inner tubes) are implanted in the erectile chambers. The length of the erectile chambers is precisely measured in order to size the implant properly, similar to measuring the size of your feet in order to ensure a good shoe fit. A control pump is implanted in an accessible area of the scrotum. The third element is the reservoir, which contains the fluid necessary for inflation. The reservoir is typically implanted behind the pubic bone or within the abdominal wall. Tubing connects the control pump to the cylinders and to the reservoir.

Titan Touch product anatomy

(Coloplast inflatable penile implant)

When an erection is desired in a man who has an IPP implanted, the scrotal control pump is repeatedly squeezed, which transfers saline from the reservoir into the penile cylinders. As the cylinders fill, an erection develops and with each consecutive squeeze, more fluid is flows into the cylinders, creating a more rigid erection of wider girth. The erection will remain until the release bar on the control pump is activated.   After the completion of sexual intercourse, by activating this release bar, the fluid in the cylinders returns to the reservoir where it is again stored, returning the penis to its flaccid state. Some IPPs are designed to increase in girth only, whereas others can increase in length and girth.

IPPs have been available for over forty years and have been improved remarkably over the years. The current devices are well-engineered, sophisticated,  highly effective devices. Penile sensitivity, sex drive and ability to ejaculate are essentially unchanged following an IPP implantation. It is important to know that unlike a normal erection, the IPP erection does not result in swelling of the head of the penis nor the erectile tissue surrounding the urethra. Nonetheless, it results in a penetrable and durable erection that can restore sexual function in a man who is incapable of achieving an erection.

Advantages of the IPP are its ability to inflate and deflate, creating no issues with concealment. The penis can be kept inflated for as long as desired, whether it be 60 seconds or 60 minutes and will not deflate after ejaculation, unlike what typically occurs under normal circumstances. Disadvantages include its additional expense (although it is usually covered by insurance), the fact that it requires some degree of manual dexterity to operate, and the fact that it is more susceptible to mechanical malfunction than the semi-rigid variety because of its complexity.

Bottom Line: The penile implant is a fourth-line approach for ED that is a highly effective means of providing erectile rigidity on demand, capable of restoring sexual function in a man who is incapable of achieving a functional erection.

Thank you to the Coloplast Corporation for providing the images.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:

Author of Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health: available in e-book (Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo) and paperback: In the works is The Kegel Fix: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health.

Co-creator of Private Gym and PelvicRx: comprehensive, interactive, FDA-registered follow-along male pelvic floor muscle training programs. Built upon the foundational work of Dr. Arnold Kegel, these programs empower men to increase pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, power, and endurance: or Amazon.  

Pelvic Rx can be obtained at, an online store that is home to quality urology products for men and women.  Use code UROLOGY10 at check out for 10% discount.