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Erection problems - aftercare

Alternate Names

Erectile dysfunction - self-care

What to Expect at Home

You have seen your health care provider for erection problems . You may be unable to get an erection at all, or you may lose the erection during intercourse before you are ready. If the condition persists, the medical term is erectile dysfunction (ED).

Erection problems are common in adult men. In fact, almost all men experience difficulty getting or maintaining an erection at times.


For many men, lifestyle changes can help with ED. For example, although alcohol and illegal drugs may make you less inhibited, they can cause or worsen erectile dysfunction. Avoid illegal drugs, and consider stopping or cutting back the amount of alcohol you drink.

Smoking and smokeless tobacco can cause narrowing of blood vessels all over the body, including the blood supply to the penis. Talk to your doctor about quitting.

A few other tips include:

  • Get plenty of rest and take time to relax.
  • Exercise and eat a healthy diet can help maintain good circulation.
  • Use safe sex practices, which reduce fear of HIV and STDs.

Talking with Your Partner

Having ED can create negative or critical feelings about yourself. This can make it even more difficult to find the right treatment and be able to give and receive sexual pleasure.

ED can also be an emotionally charged issue for couples, making it difficult for you or your partner to openly discuss. Men who have trouble communicating their feelings may find it difficult to share with their partner any anxieties about their sexual performance. Couples who cannot talk to each other are likely to have problems with sexual intimacy.

In these circumstances, counseling can be very helpful for both you and your partner. Finding a way for both of you to express your feelings and desires, then work on the issue together, can make a big difference.

Drugs, Herbs, and Supplements

Sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra), and tadalafil (Cialis) are medicines prescribed for ED. The drugs work only when you are sexually aroused.

  • The effect is usually seen within 15 - 45 minutes. The effects of these drugs may last for several hours. Tadalafil (Cialis) may last for up to 36 hours.
  • Sildenafil (Viagra) should be taken on an empty stomach; (Levitra) and tadalafil (Cialis) may be taken with or without food.
  • These drugs should not be used more than once a day.
  • Common side effects of these medicines include flushing, upset stomach, headache, nasal congestion, back pain, and dizziness.

If you have heart disease, talk with your doctor before using these medications. Men who take medicines called nitrates should not take a pill to treat ED.

Many herbs and dietary supplements are marketed to help sexual performance or desire. None of these remedies have been proven effective for treating erectile dysfunction. Consult your health care provider to see if one of these treatments is right for you.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor right away or go to an emergency room if medication for ED gives you an erection that lasts more than 4 hours. If this problem isn’t treated, you may suffer lLasting damage to your penis.


Heidelbaugh JJ. Management of erectile dysfunction. Am Fam Physician. 2010 Feb 1;81(3):305-12.

Updated: 9/27/2011

Louis S. Liou, MD, PhD, Chief of Urology, Cambridge Health Alliance, Visiting Assistant Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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