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Health Tips for Men

Erectile Dysfunction: Treatment Overview

September 13, 2022

Erectile dysfunction is common in most American men. Luckily there are a number of erectile dysfunction treatment options. Learn more about erectile dysfunction and how to treat it.

Erectile dysfunction written on a sticky notes with stethoscope isolated on wooden table
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Reviewed by the Office of Clinical Evaluation and Policy (OCEP), Evernorth

Although erectile dysfunction (ED) isn’t a life-threatening problem, it can be a bothersome issue and a possible sign of a more serious health condition. ED is a common and underdiagnosed condition in men, affecting around 30 million men in the U.S. Characterized as an inability to get or maintain an erection suitable for sex, ED can severely disrupt the personal and sex lives of many men.

If left untreated, ED can lead to various complications, such as a lack of sexual fulfillment, strained intimate relationships, and depression or anxiety. Despite the potential complications, treatment options are available. Under the supervision of a healthcare provider, many men opt to take medications, such as Viagra® (sildenafil), along with resolving the root cause of the problem.

Continue reading to learn more about erectile dysfunction treatment options.

What is erectile dysfunction?

Many men may experience occasional ED due to stress or anxiety. However, physical problems and other issues may lead to ongoing ED that may need to be treated. The exact prevalence of ED is not clear, as many men may remain undiagnosed. Fortunately, the stigma around ED is declining with the availability of treatment options.

Causes of ED

Several processes are involved with getting and maintaining an erection. Adequate blood flow to the penis with sexual stimulation is necessary for getting an erection. However, this process may be interrupted by different causes, both physical and psychological.

Psychological causes of ED include:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Problems with intimacy
  • Low self-esteem

Physical causes of ED include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • The use of drugs or alcohol
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep disorders
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Low testosterone
  • Peyronie’s disease (or an abnormal curvature of the penis)

A healthcare provider may consider several factors before diagnosing ED. They may ask about the person’s age, medical history, current medications and any previous treatments that have been tried. Some medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac® (fluoxetine), may cause ED. Once a diagnosis of ED is made, a healthcare provider may recommend treatment options.

Erectile dysfunction treatment options

Several treatment options for ED are available. The recommended treatment option will depend on the person’s overall condition and the root cause of ED. Medications or non-medication treatments may be recommended.


The most commonly prescribed medications for ED are phosphodiesterase type-5 (PDE5) inhibitors. These drugs work by relaxing the blood vessels to allow more blood flow to the penis. PDE5 inhibitors include:

  • Viagra® (sildenafil)
  • Cialis® (tadalafil)
  • Stendra® (avanafil)
  • vardenafil

ED medications are available with a prescription from a healthcare provider. Many men prefer to take a pill as a convenient treatment option for ED. These medications usually work quickly to help men get and maintain an erection. However, they may not be appropriate for everyone, so make sure to consult with a healthcare provider before starting treatment.

Medications for any underlying conditions causing ED may also be prescribed, such as medications for diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol.

Non-medication treatments

Non-medication treatments may also be recommended to treat ED. Sex therapy or counseling can help treat any underlying psychological causes of ED, such as depression, anxiety, or stress. Vacuum erection devices, otherwise known as penis pumps, work to create a low-pressure vacuum around the penis and may help improve ED for some men. A healthcare provider may recommend a penile implant in severe cases. Penile implants include semi-rigid and inflatable implants.

Lifestyle habits can also affect the ability to get and maintain an erection. Examples of lifestyle improvements that may help treat ED include:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Managing weight
  • Avoiding the use of drugs and alcohol

Oftentimes, non-medication treatments are recommended along with the use of medications. Combining different treatments may be a well-rounded solution for improving ED.

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Getting the right erectile dysfunction treatment for you

Erectile dysfunction treatment options will vary by person. If you are living with ED, you can find comfort in the fact that treatment options are available and accessible. Make sure to consult with a healthcare provider on the best treatment option for you. Tell your healthcare provider about any medical conditions you have or other medications you’re taking while discussing ED treatment options.