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Radiation Treatment and Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common problem for men who have undergone radiation treatment for prostate cancer. Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. Although radiation therapy is an effective treatment for prostate cancer, it can damage the blood vessels and nerves that are needed for an erection.
ED can occur soon after radiation therapy is completed or may not happen for several years. The risk of developing ED increases as you get older. If you have other risk factors for ED, such as diabetes or heart disease, you may be more likely to develop ED after radiation therapy.
You may be able to reduce your risk of ED by:
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
- Exercising regularly.
- Eating a healthy diet.
- Quitting smoking.
- Managing stress.
If you develop ED after radiation therapy, there are several treatment options available. These include:
- Oral medications. These drugs can be taken before sexual activity to improve blood flow to the penis. Examples of oral medications that can be used to treat ED include sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), and vardenafil (Levitra).
- Injections. These drugs are injected into the penis before sexual activity. They work by increasing blood flow to the penis. Alprostadil (Caverject Impulse, Edex) is an example of a drug that can be used as an injection.
- Urethral suppositories. These drugs are inserted into the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body) before sexual activity. They work by increasing blood flow to the penis. Alprostadil (Muse) is an example of a drug that can be used as a urethral suppository.
- Vacuum devices. These devices are used to create an erection by drawing blood into the penis. A ring is then placed around the base of the penis to maintain the erection. Vacuum devices are safe, effective, and easy to use.
- Penile implants. This is a surgical procedure that is used to treat ED. A penile implant is a device that is placed under the skin of the penis. The device can be inflated or deflated to create an erection. Penile implants are safe, effective, and easy to use.
Talk to your doctor about the best treatment option for you. With treatment, most men are able to have an erection.