If you can’t get or keep an erection firm enough for sex, it means you have a condition called erectile dysfunction (ED). A penis pump is one of a few treatment choices that might help. It’s a device made of these parts:
- A plastic tube that fits over the penis.
- Hand or battery-powered pump attached to the tube.
- Band that fits around the base of the penis once it is erect, called a tension ring.
A penis pump is sometimes called a vacuum pump or a vacuum erection device.
Why it’s done
Erectile dysfunction is a common problem. It’s especially an issue after prostate surgery and in older men.
Health care providers have a few ways to treat ED, though. Prescription drugs that you can take by mouth include:
- Sildenafil (Viagra)
- Tadalafil (Cialis, Adcirca)
- Avanafil (Stendra)
Other ED treatments include:
- Medicines inserted through the tip of your penis. These drugs go into the tube inside the penis that carries urine and semen, called the urethra.
- Shots you inject into your penis, called penile injections.
- Devices placed into the penis during surgery, called penile implants.
A penis pump might be a good choice if an ED medicine that you take by mouth causes side effects, doesn’t work or isn’t safe for you. A pump might also be the right choice if you don’t want to try the other treatments.
Penis pumps can be a good ED treatment because they:
- Work well. Reports suggest that penis pumps can help most men get an erection firm enough for sex. But it takes practice and correct use.
- Pose less of a risk than some other ED treatments. That means the chance of having side effects or complications is lower.
- Don’t cost a lot. Penis pumps tend to be a lower-cost ED treatment.
- Work outside of your body. They don’t require surgery, shots or medicines that go in the tip of your penis.
- Can be used with other treatments. You can use a penis pump along with medicines or a penile implant. A mix of ED treatments works best for some people.
- Might help with ED after certain procedures. For example, using a penis pump might help restore your ability to get a natural erection after prostate surgery or radiation therapy for prostate cancer.
Penis pumps are safe for most men, but there are some risks. For example:
- You have a higher risk of bleeding if you take blood-thinning medicines. Examples include warfarin (Jantoven) and clopidogrel (Plavix).
- A penis pump might not be safe if you have sickle cell anemia or another blood disorder. These conditions can make you prone to blood clots or bleeding.
Tell your health care provider about all of your health conditions. Also let them know about any medicines you take, including herbal supplements. This will help prevent possible problems.
Side effects of using a penis pump can include:
- Pinpoint-sized red dots called petechiae. These are caused by bleeding under the surface of the skin of the penis.
- Penis feels numb, cold or looks bluish or purple. These side effects can happen when the tension band that fits around the base of your penis is in place.
- Pain or bruising. Knowing how to use the penis pump the right way can help you avoid injuring your penis.
- Feeling of trapped semen. You might feel like your semen is trapped when your penis tries to release it, called ejaculation. Or ejaculation might be painful. Some penis-pump makers create tension rings with a small cutout that might help with this.
Penis pumps have some other possible drawbacks:
- Erections that don’t feel like they used to. Penis pumps can cause an erection that doesn’t feel natural or spur of the moment. You might lack firmness at the base of the penis. And that can allow the penis to rotate or pivot more than it would with a natural erection.
- Awkward feelings. Using a penis pump takes patience and understanding from both you and your partner. It might take some time to feel at ease with the device.
- Challenges with using it. You need to use your hands and fingers to work a penis pump. That can be a problem for some men or their partners.
How you prepare
See your health care provider if you have erectile dysfunction. Be ready to answer some questions about your health and your symptoms.
In some cases, ED is caused by another health condition that can be treated. Depending on your condition, you might need to see a specialist who treats problems of the urinary tract and reproductive system, called a urologist.
To figure out whether a penis pump is a good treatment choice for you, your health care provider might ask about:
- Any illnesses you have now or have had in the past.
- Any injuries or surgeries you’ve had, especially ones that involve your penis, testicles or prostate.
- What medicines you take, including herbal supplements.
- What erectile dysfunction treatments you’ve tried and how well they worked.
Your provider will likely give you a physical exam. This often includes checking your genitals. It also may include feeling your pulse in different parts of your body.
Your provider might do a digital rectal examination. This lets them check your prostate gland. Your provider will gently place a smooth, slippery, gloved finger into your rectum. Then they’ll be able to feel the surface of the prostate.
Your visit might be less involved if your provider already knows the cause of your ED.
Choosing a penis pump
You can buy some penis pumps without a health care provider’s prescription. But talk to your provider before you buy one. They might suggest or prescribe a specific model. That way you can be sure it’s right for you and that it was made by a trustworthy company.
Penis pumps sold online, in magazines and sex ads might not be safe or work well. Make sure the penis pump you use has a vacuum limiter. This keeps pressure from getting too high and injuring your penis.
Check your pubic hair before you use a penis pump for the first time. You might want to trim or shave any pubic hair near the base of your penis. That makes the hair less likely to get caught in the ring.
Penis pumps for penis enlargement
Many ads in magazines and on the internet claim penis pumps can be used to increase penis size. But there’s no proof that they work for that.
What you can expect
Using a penis pump takes a few simple steps:
- Place the plastic tube over your penis.
- Use a hand pump or electric pump attached to the tube. This draws air out of the tube and creates a vacuum inside it. The vacuum pulls blood into the penis.
- Once you have an erection, slip a rubber tension ring around the base of your penis. This helps you keep the erection by keeping blood inside the penis.
- Remove the vacuum device. The erection typically lasts long enough to have sex.
Don’t leave the tension ring in place for more than 30 minutes. Cutting off blood flow for too long might injure your penis.
Using a penis pump won’t cure erectile dysfunction. But it might create an erection firm enough for sex. You might need to use a penis pump along with other treatments, such as taking ED medicines.