Male patient consulting doctor

If you have Erectile Dysfunction (ED), your doctor might suggest taking oral medicine, such as Cialis®, Viagra®, or Levitra®. But not all men can or want to take medicine for ED — health issues or other medications you take may prevent you from being a good candidate for medical therapy.

If oral medicines don’t work for you, penile injection therapy may be a good option.

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Types of Penile Injection Therapy

With injection therapy, you inject medicine directly into your penis before you want an erection. Alprostadil is one of the main ingredients in erectile dysfunction injections; it works by relaxing blood vessels and the smooth muscle of the penis, which increases blood flow.

There are different types of medicine that may be used for the injections, but the technique of penile injection for treating erectile dysfunction is the same:

Using a tiny needle and syringe, you insert medicine into the side of your penis, directly into the erectile tissue. Depending on how much medicine you use, your erection may last longer than 30 minutes. This therapy has a success rate of 70 to 80 percent. If you have low blood flow in your penis, it may not be effective.

Penile injections must be self-administered, meaning you inject them yourself. Your doctor will give you the first dose to teach you how to do it properly. If you’re not comfortable giving yourself an injection, this therapy may not be right for you. If you are unable to give yourself the injection, your sexual partner can learn to administer it for you.

Side Effects and Risks of Penile Injection Therapy

Consider these side effects and risks before deciding if injection therapy is right for you:

  • Injection site reactions: You might experience pain in your penis and could develop bruising or scar tissue at the site of injection.
  • Alcohol: The combination of alcohol and erectile dysfunction medicine — oral or injected — can lead to a serious drop in blood pressure.
  • Prolonged erection: In a small percentage of men, injection therapy can result in an erection lasting four to six hours. In rare cases, it can result in priapism, an erection that lasts longer than six hours. If your erection lasts more than four hours, seek medical attention immediately as this can result in penile tissue damage and permanent erectile dysfunction.
  • Cardiovascular risk: In general, men whose cardiovascular health isn’t stable enough to have sex shouldn’t use injection therapy.

There may be other side effects or contraindications, such as having sickle cell disease, that prevent you from using injection therapy.

To learn if you’re a candidate for penile injection therapy and to discover more options for treating erectile dysfunction, visit the Men’s Health Center or call 1-877-641-4636(4MEN) to make an appointment.

About Urology

The UPMC Department of Urology treats all manners of conditions involving the urinary tract and male reproductive organs. We treat those disorders both in children and adults. We have a multifaceted team of physicians and researchers working together to provide the best care. We provide cutting-edge treatments, and we continue to lead research into even better methods for diagnosis and treatment. U.S. News & World Report ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as among the best hospitals in the country for urological care.