Researchers Just Found a Surprising New Treatment for Erectile Dysfunction

You'll never guess which popular drug can help with this uncomfortable—but common—condition.

Sometimes a problem with your sex life is linked with another health-related issue. For example, erectile dysfunction (ED) can result from blood pressure problems, taking certain medications, and mouth-breathing.

"Male sexual arousal is a complex process that involves the brain, hormones, emotions, nerves, muscles and blood vessels [and] erectile dysfunction can result from a problem with any of these," explains the Mayo Clinic. "Likewise, stress and mental health concerns can cause or worsen erectile dysfunction."

While you'll want to talk to your medical provider about any changes in your sexual wellness, it's also good to know about existing and emerging approaches to treating ED—and researchers have just found a surprising new treatment for this disconcerting condition. Read on to find out what it is.

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ED is more prevalent than you might think.

Man sitting on bed feeling sad.

Healthline defines ED as "the inability to maintain an erection firm enough for satisfying sexual activity." The site notes that "while occasionally having difficulty maintaining an erection is normal, if it happens frequently and it consistently disrupts your sex life, your doctor may diagnose you with ED."

ED is not always an easy thing to talk about, but it's more common than you might think. According to the Cleveland Clinic, a study called The Massachusetts Male Aging Study found a prevalence of ED of approximately 52 percent. "The study demonstrated that ED is increasingly prevalent with age: approximately 40 percent of men are affected at age 40 and nearly 70 percent of men are affected at age 70," the Cleveland Clinic explains, noting that a man's age is the variable most associated with ED. "The prevalence of complete ED increased from five percent at age 40 to 15 percent at age 70.2."

"It's all about the blood flow."

Doctor explaining something to a patient.

The process of getting an erection is complex, as are the problems that can lead to ED. But basically, "It's all about the blood flow," Matthew Hoffman, MD, tells WebMD. "To get and keep an erection, blood needs to have no problem getting to your penis."

Although ED was long thought to be a psychological problem, "It is now known that, for most men, erectile dysfunction is caused by physical problems, usually related to the blood supply of the penis," according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. "Many advances have occurred in both diagnosis and treatment of erectile dysfunction."

Matthew Ziegelmann, MD explains to the Mayo Clinic that the penis has two cylinders, called corpora cavernosa. "During sexual arousal, nerve impulses increase blood flow to both of these cylinders," says the site. "This sudden influx of blood causes an erection by expanding, straightening and stiffening the penis."

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Various treatment options for ED are available.

Patient consulting with doctor.
Pornpak Khunatorn/iStock

The treatment options for ED vary widely. Oral medications such as Viagra and Cialis "enhance the effects of nitric oxide, a natural chemical your body produces that relaxes muscles in the penis," urologist Tobias Kohler, tells the Mayo Clinic. "This increases blood flow and allows you to get an erection in response to sexual stimulation." Viagra has other potential health benefits as well: Research has found that it can help decrease your risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Kohler explains that other treatments include injectable medication, urethral suppository, and testosterone therapy. Physical exercise can also be helpful in addressing ED, says Kohler, who adds that "If your erectile dysfunction is caused by stress, anxiety, or depression—or the condition is creating stress and relationship tension—your doctor might suggest that you, or you and your partner, visit a psychologist or counselor."

Botox has shown promising results as a potential treatment for ED.

Hand holding a syringe and a bottle.
Marcus Chung/iStock

A surprising new potential treatment was revealed in a study published by Urology: Botox. The New York Post reported that "New research has found injections of the anti-wrinkle drug into the penis provide 'a clear benefit' for men suffering from erectile dysfunction."

Botox is better known as an injectable drug that reduces the appearance of wrinkles. But the Post says that using an "erection hardness scale," a recent trial showed that "about half of participants improved their ranking on the scale, while a second trial showed 40 percent of impotent participants were successfully able to have sex at least three months after the treatment."

The trial included only 362 participants, and the Post notes that further research is needed. In the meantime, preventative measures against ED can be effective. These include making healthy lifestyle choices and managing existing conditions, Ziegelmann tells the Mayo Clinic. Practicing healthy habits like making time for physical exercise and eating a proper diet, as well as working with your doctor "to manage diabetes, heart disease, or other chronic health conditions," can help with ED, says Ziegelmann.

Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

Luisa Colón
Luisa Colón is a writer, editor, and consultant based in New York City. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, Latina, and many more. Read more
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