Getting Pumped Up

All the stir about treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED) has centered on how new drugs -- Viagra and Cialis are two -- will bring life back into dead relationships or make a man's erections appear natural and last longer. But some men can't take these drugs. For them, the topical cream Alprostadil and the injectable Trimix both work well if they don't mind the mess or giving themselves an injection.

The press reports about new developments in the world of pharmacology rarely mention the vacuum erection device, or VED, as a treatment for ED. This mechanical approach continues to be a safe and effective treatment for ED with few side effects.

Introduced in the 1980s, VEDs work by using a glass or plastic cylinder to create a vacuum around the penis , which causes the penis to fill with blood. A rubber band is then placed around the base of the penis to trap the blood in the organ, the vacuum valve is released, and the cylinder is removed. Successful erections using VEDs have been achieved in up to 90 percent of cases.

Potential problems with the devices are hematoma (bruising), pain, and numbness in the penis and the complaint that the penis feels cold to the touch. The cost of a VED can be several hundred dollars. Nonetheless, VEDs work and they don't involve injections or taking drugs, factors that weigh heavily in the minds of some men.

VEDs may not be terribly romantic, but they do work and are really quite safe.