Shockwave therapy is a treatment for underlying physical causes of ED and boosting the blood flow to the penile tissue.
There are several ways to treat erectile dysfunction (ED). Aside from penile implants and lifestyle changes, techniques that include medication and injections represent on-demand treatment options. Shockwave therapy could be an alternative.
Inadequate blood supply to the penis is a common underlying cause of ED, known as vasculogenic ED. Shockwave therapy may work best for people with this condition, as experts believe it increases blood supply.
Keep reading to learn more about how shockwave therapy for ED works, the potential risks and side effects, and where people can receive treatment.
What is shockwave therapy?
People with ED may consider shockwave therapy, which is an alternative, non-invasive treatment for ED. It is a fairly recent technique that has emerged over the last decade.
Practitioners may refer to shockwave therapy for ED as low-intensity extracorporeal shock wave treatment (LI-ESWT).
How does it work?
LI-ESWT for ED works by applying low-intensity shock waves to the penis. A practitioner uses a handheld probe to administer these. A gel is used as an interface to conduct the shock pulses.
People do not usually need an anesthetic, but they may experience a tingling sensation in the treatment area.
A practitioner will apply a set amount of shocks per minute, for a fixed amount of time. A session may last 15–20 minutes, and people may require repeat treatments.
The energy from shock wave therapy stimulates new blood vessel growth through a process called angiogenesis. This increases penile blood flow, which may improve erectile function.
LI-ESWT may also improve the effectiveness of pde5 inhibitors, which are oral drugs to treat ED.
A 2017 study looked at the effects of LI-ESWT on ED in 710 people. Each participant received five weekly 20-minute sessions. Some also had additional drug treatments for ED.
The study results showed LI-ESWT caused a significant improvement in erection quality in people with and without additional medication.
A month after the sessions, there was a decrease in improvement. The researchers suggest that a longer treatment duration may provide better and longer-lasting results.
Risks and side effects
Side effects of shockwave therapy for ED may include:
- bruising of penile skin;
- blood in the urine;
- painful erection;
- pain or difficulty during sexual intercourse, due to the above.
However, all the side effects are temporary and disappear during a short time.
A 2019 review of clinical studies report positive initial results from LI-EWST, with a good safety record and an improvement in erectile function.
How to get treatment?
As part of their own research, people may wish to take the following steps before they decide to undergo shockwave therapy:
- Consulting with a primary care doctor before they decide on a treatment option.
- Talking to a urologist for further information. Urologists are doctors who specialize in urinary and reproductive health.
- Finding out about the experience, knowledge, and background of the practitioner providing ED treatment.
- Checking practitioners use a recognized shockwave machine, as some devices may not deliver effective levels of energy.
- Researching the total cost of treatment beforehand, and research the legitimacy of any high-cost therapies.
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