Do Penis Pumps Work?

Many couples grappling with serious erectile dysfunction are willing to learn how to handle the invasiveness of penis pumps as an ED treatment but ask themselves a simple question: do penis pumps actually work?

The straightforward answer is that vacuum erection devices (Penis pumps) may still be the best solution to erectile dysfunction for men with “refractory ED.” 
 
These are the men who in laymen’s terms can find no easy answer to their erectile problems because of other health issues (diabetes or serious heart disease) or because their ED is a result of a radical prostatectomy (RP) for prostate cancer.

Penis Pumps Good For Some Men

Paradoxically the arrival of oral erectile drug treatments more than a decade ago raised - and then dashed - the hopes of millions of men in these groups – the ones who found themselves in the “too hard basket” because erectile PDE-5 drugs (phosphodiesterase inhibitors like Viagra, Cialis and Levitra) did not work for them.

For the growing number of men left impotent by radical prostatectomies – estimated to be 40 to 70 per cent even with “nerve sparing” operations – there is an added concern. Increasingly rehabilitation after prostate surgery involves restoring erections as soon as possible, rather than waiting for nature to take its course.

“Use it or lose it” has become the catch cry for sexual health because if the penile tissue is deprived of oxygen rich blood for too long permanent damage may result. 

Erectile injections have proven effective for men with refractory erectile dysfunction but needle fear puts many off jabbing themselves before sex.

That leaves the vacuum erection device (VED) or penis pump as a safe and effective alternative. So yes, for this group of men penis pumps do work as an erectile dysfunction treatment option.


A Guide to Penis Pump Mechanics

Penis Pump Use:

A tube (usually acrylic) with a pumping mechanism to empty air from the tube, creates a vacuum that causes blood to be drawn into penis. This assists engorgement, and as a result erectile function.

Penis Pump Advantages:

  • As a penis enlarger, 30% of men report feeling satisfied with gains. Though there is no evidence of any significant, permanent gains in length or girth. Likely only a psychological benefit
  • Non-invasive
  • Low on-going cost, with just the original purchase price to consider
  • Can be used alongside most other ED treatments without issue
  • Relatively low risk of side effects compared with pharmaceutical treatments
  • As an Erectile Dysfunction aid they can be quite effective. Evidence shows can make a real difference to ability to gain and maintain erection, though only temporarily i.e you’ll need to re-use the pump the next time to get the same effect     

 Penis Pump Disadvantages/Warnings:

  • If you take any blood-thinning medication (e.g. Warfarin, Aspirin, Ibuprofen) there’s an increased risk of bleeding
  • No proof of any real gains in penis length
  • Risk of bruising, pain, numbness; though this is lessened by correct usage
  • May in worse cases cause permanent damage to penile tissue, both muscular and vascular. This is particularly if the vacuum/negative pressure reaches excessive levels (this is usually defined as over 10inHg / 25cmHg)
  • As an ED treatment, vacuum-pumped penises may be semi-flaccid and spongy only, not as rigid as a natural erection. And again the same risk of damage from overuse applies
  • Sometimes the main erection shaft may be fine, but the rigidity noticeably lessens at the base, which makes the penis pivot around in a way natural erections would not
  • Even if overall erection is normative, it may still feel psychologically unnatural, artificial, as it does not result from ordinary arousal response
  • If you have sickle cell anemia or similar disorder, a penis pump may cause bleeding or bloodclots
  • It often causes a (temporary) decrease in volume/force of ejaculate
  • Use of a penis pump before sex can take the fun and spontaneity out of the act, and it may reduce sexual pleasure for both the user and their partner until they become accustomed to having to use it
  • Requires a reasonable degree of manual dexterity to operate well, which may be problematic for some men and their partners
  • It may also require men to shave their pubic hair at the base of the penis in order for the pump to get a decent seal, which may be a negative for some
  • Over time, the rim of the cylinder can potentially cut into the ligaments at the base of the penis, causing damage
  • Beware accidentally getting testicles caught in the vacuum! Painful bruising is likely, and in some cases, permanent tissue damage may result
  • It is common to experience small red dots under the penis skin, due to mild internal bleeding

Review of Common Australian Penis Pumps

This table compares and contrasts the most common devices on the market. See below table for more exhaustive breakdown of standard Penis Pump Attachments and Accessories, key points to look out for when considering different Penis Pump models.

Penis Pump Attachments / Accessories

  1. Rubber Ball Pumping Mechanism

Use:

  • Like a doctor’s blood-pressure unit, squeeze the ball to increase vacuum


Advantages:

  • The cheapest option
  • No power consumption


Disadvantages/Warnings:

  • Harder to regulate correct pressure, and therefore easier to do yourself damage
  1. Plunger Pumping Mechanism

Use:

  • Much like a bike tire pump


Advantages:

  • Still quite cheap
  • No power consumption


Disadvantages/Warnings:

  • Harder to regulate correct pressure, and therefore easier to do yourself damage

 

  1. Hand Grip Pumping Mechanism

Use:

  • Like a hose hand-spray attachment, the fixed-grip and trigger-grip are squeezed together to adjust pressure.


Advantages:

  • Much better at regulating pressure than Plunger or Rubber Ball types.
  • Significantly cheaper than the electric system at least
  • No power consumption

 

Disadvantages/Warnings:

  • Still doesn’t offer a fine degree of control over pressure

 

  1. Electric Pumping Mechanism

Use:

  • Automated, controlled electric system


Advantages:

  • Fully regulated pressure
  • Multiple pre-set pressure and duration settings
  • Hands-free!


Disadvantages/Warnings:

  • Much more expensive!

 

  1. Pressure Gauge

Use:

  • Gives indication of current negative pressures within cylinder


Advantages:

  • Helps alert you to risk of excessive negative pressure (usually defined as 5-10inHg / 12.5-25cmHg)


Disadvantages/Warnings:

  • Small increase in overall expense of pump unit

 

  1. Vacuum Limiter

Use:

  • Automatically prevents vacuums from reaching extreme negative pressures


Advantages:

  • Ensures pump does not reach damaging pressures
  • American Urological Association argues that only devices with a vacuum limiter are truly safe


Disadvantages/Warnings:

  • Moderate increase in expense

 

  1. Pressure Release Valve

Use:

  • Allows instant release of pressure


Advantages:

  • If negative pressure become too extreme, allows for quick release


Disadvantages/Warnings:

  • Increase in expense

 

  1. Constriction Ring / ‘Cock Ring’

Use:

  • Tied on base of erection to prevent blood leaving and disengorgement, usually in conjunction with a penis pump.


Advantages:

  • May help in cases of Erectile Dysfunction to make erection last longer
  • May make slight difference to length of penis, though there’s no evidence this effect is permanent


Disadvantages/Warnings:

  • Can cause permanent severe damage to penis. This is especially the case if the ring is left on for more than thirty minutes
  • Numbness, coldness or bruising may result when band is in place
  • Use of metal constriction ring in particular is not advised, as if penis is engorged enough it may become impossible to remove the ring without sawing the ring off, or in some cases, partial penile amputation. Which is something I think most of us would prefer to avoid!