What To Watch Out for with Vacuum Pumps for Erectile Dysfunction

June 9, 2021

Erectile dysfunction is a common issue for guys -- more common than you might think. Some estimates indicate ED happens to over 50% of guys over the age of 40, and incidence increases with age. Chances are, it'll happen to you.

ED treatments have changed and improved with time, and there are now easy-to-use prescription ED medications available at great prices.

Though they work for over 80% of guys who try them, they might not be the best treatment for some people due to medication complications or other medical conditions. In that case, alternative treatments can be a lifesaver. 

One of the most popular alternative treatments for ED are vacuum pumps. This relatively simple device and process can be highly effective at creating an erection and is considered to be a safe option for treating the symptoms of erectile dysfunction. 

What Is a Vacuum Pump?

Vacuum pumps, also known as vacuum constriction devices, penis pumps, or vacuum erection devices, are tools created to help men achieve an erection that's firm enough to engage in penetrative sex. These pumps include a long cylinder, a hand operated or battery powered pump, and a circular ring. 

The way that they work is fairly simple, but it’s important to follow these steps properly in order to avoid injury. The process:

  1. Shave your pubic hair. While this is technically optional, it can help to create a better seal and avoid painful snagging.
  2. Apply lube. Place water soluble jelly, petroleum, or other lubrication at the base of the penis in order to help create a watertight seal.
  3. Insert penis into the cylinder. Each device is different so be sure to follow directions in order to ensure that there is a firm and tight seal against the base of the penis.
  4. Use the pump. Whether it’s battery powered, hand triggered, or hand powered, the pump will be used to create a vacuum inside the tube, pulling blood into the penis. It’s important not to rush the process, as it may take a few minutes of pumping. 
  5. Remove the pump. Once erect, remove the pump from your penis. There is usually a release valve that helps break the vacuum seal, but check the instructions with your specific model.
  6. Slide on the ring. In order to maintain the erection, slip on the constriction ring to the base of your penis. This band will help to keep the blood inside the penis, but it’s important not to wear for any longer than 30 minutes. It’s possible to suffer severe injuries if left on for too long. 

Why Do People Use Them?

Anyone with difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection can benefit from using a vacuum pump. In general, they're used by people that have issues with poor blood flow to the penis as a result of:

  • Heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Prostate surgery
  • Colon cancer treatment
  • Psychological issues like stress, anxiety, and depression

While prescription medications can treat most of these issues, they might not be use-able for everyone. For example, they can have a negative interaction with some blood pressure medications. They're also not always as effective when dealing with psychological ED causes, as they only help with the erection process, they don’t create it. 

With a vacuum pump, arousal is not necessary as the blood is literally vacuum pumped into the penis. Whether arousal or sexual stimulation happens or not, a vacuum pump will almost certainly result in an erection. 

Some reasons why someone might prefer a vacuum pump include:

  • They can be highly effective when used correctly, regardless of stimulation or arousal.
  • There are less side effects or possible complications compared to other treatment options like surgery or medications.
  • A one time purchase helps to make it less expensive in the long term, especially the more that it’s used.
  • There is no surgery or invasive needles required.
  • These pumps can safely be used in addition to other treatments if necessary or desired.
  • Might be an effective way to naturally restore erectile ability after prostate surgery or undergoing radiation therapy. 

What Are the Side Effects of a Vacuum Pump for ED?

While vacuum pumps might come with fewer complications than other treatments for erectile dysfunction, they're not completely without risk. Many potential problems will be avoided as long as the pump is used as directed, but there are potentially serious issues when used improperly. 

For the most part, misuse will only result in pain and bruising, but it could cause much more serious issues. For example, leaving the constriction ring on for more than 30 minutes can result in significant damage to the penis, including necrosis, or tissue death. This means that new blood is no longer able to flow into the penis. 

When used properly the potential issues are much less severe, though there can still be painful side effects. Some of the most common side effects of vacuum pumps include:

  • Petechiae are pinpoint sized red dots caused by bleeding under the surface of the penis skin.
  • The constriction ring might cause the penis to go numb, feel cold, or turn a bluish color.
  • Black and blue bruising and marks might occur on the shaft of the penis.
  • Due to the constriction ring, the force of ejaculation may be reduced. This could lead to the sensation of trapped semen, a more painful ejaculation, and a decrease in overall pleasure from the orgasm. 
  • Erections might feel unnatural or different and lack the spontaneity of erections created under normal circumstances.
  • A lack of firmness at the base of the penis may cause the penis to rotate or pivot more than a natural erection. 
  • Feelings of awkwardness or embarrassment might ruin the mood, especially during the early stages of learning how to use the device properly. Patience and understanding will be required from both the user and the partner.
  • Being overweight may result in an improper seal due to fatty tissues in the abdomen. An improper seal could result in pain and bruising in the penis.

It’s important to note that vacuum pumps are not safe for everyone. If the following apply to you, you should not use a vacuum pump under any circumstances:

  • You are taking blood thinning medications. These medications will greatly increase the risk of bleeding when using a vacuum pump.
  • You have a blood disorder like sickle cell anemia or leukemia. These disorders can result in blood clotting that could cause a stroke or heart attack when using a vacuum pump.

What To Watch For in a Vacuum Pump

While it may sound like a fairly simple tool, there's quite a bit of variety when it comes to vacuum pumps. Battery-powered vacuum pumps will be most expensive, but they often work the fastest and are the easiest to operate. If you have any kind of issues with arthritis or coordination, you may want to consider a battery powered device. Vacuum pumps require the use of both hands and dexterity of the fingers. 

Vacuum pumps typically cost between $100 and $500 but can be more expensive in some cases. The good news is that some insurance plans can help to pay at least a portion of the total cost, particularly if your erectile dysfunction is diagnosed by a doctor. 

When considering a vacuum pump, you should watch for:

  • A vacuum pump that includes a vacuum limiter that will prevent that air pressure inside the tube from getting too strong. If the vacuum is too powerful it can injure the penis. 
  • A constriction ring that will fit comfortably around the penis. It should be tight enough to maintain the erection, but not so tight that it hurts or completely cuts off blood circulation. It may take several attempts before you find the correct size. 
  • A quick-release valve to let air out of the pump rapidly.
  • Make sure the pump is specifically made for erectile dysfunction. Some will be advertised as penis enlargers, but there is no scientific evidence that these pumps are effective. 

The Takeaway: Vacuum pumps are an effective treatment for erectile dysfunction if used properly. While there are some side effects and risks to using them, they are considered safe for use by most men and are a good option in treating ED without medication.

When it comes to treating erectile dysfunction, prescription medications are generally the first choice among guys and doctors. That's because FDA-approved prescription medications like Viagra® and Cialis® tend to work quickly and work well. They're also cheaper than ever thanks to generics in recent years. 

Medications may not be for everyone, however, and a vacuum pump can be a great alternative option. 

Find out if generic Viagra is right for you with Rex MD's licensed clinicians. Ordering online is fast and easy, if prescribed. Get started today.

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Disclaimer : This article is for information only and should not be considered medical advice. Always speak with your doctor about your health and the benefits or risks of any treatment or intervention. This information should not be relied on as a substitute for professional medical advice.