Men's Health Thursday April 21, 2016

Could Viagra Be Replaced By Shock Wave Therapy?

Book a holiday to the Seychelles you hard-working little blue pill, because it sounds as if your days of slogging at the coalface might be numbered.

Scientists have invented and tested a new erectile dysfunction therapy that involves sound waves. It's the first real alternative to medications like Viagra in 15 years.

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Nasal blockage
  • Temporary hearing loss
  • Back pain
  • Nausea

These potential side effects can make ED medication a less attractive treatment option. For these men in particular, extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) may prove to be a good alternative.

How does Viagra work?

Viagra, as well as other ED treatments including Cialis and Levitra, work by increasing blood flow to the penis to allow for a strong and longer-lasting erection during sex. The majority of men experience no problems with the treatment, but some will have side effects such as:

What's the new therapy?

Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) itself is a non-invasive treatment that can use shock waves to treat musculoskeletal conditions. It involves a mechanical force being delivered to the body's tissue via high-energy sound waves (or shock waves). These waves are transmitted through a probe, which is placed on the skin of the area of concern. Additional ESWT sessions may be required to get the most out of the therapy. Usually at least three courses are required with a break of one to two weeks between each session.

" The shock wave therapy works in two-thirds of folks with vascular or diabetes-induced ED" Dr. Sangar, MD, consultant urologist at Spire Manchester Hospital

The European Society for Sexual Medicine in Madrid met to discuss a few studies that have taken place recently. Here's the breakdown of one such study:

112 men with erectile dysfunction (ED) were recruited. Half received five weekly doses of low-intensity sound waves in five places on their penises. The rest received a placebo. After the treatment, 57% of men who received the sound wave treatment were able to have sex along with 9% of the placebo group. That's a good result when previously none of them could sustain an erection at all.

How does it work?

ESWT works by encouraging the growth of new blood vessels and therefore the rate of blood flow to the penis. It may also potentially boost circulation. Scientists are hopeful it'll have long term benefits too, because when the patients were examined 12 weeks post treatment, 28% were still able to have penetrative sex without any medication.

Are there any other studies?

Yes. In 2013 a similar trial conducted by Rambam Medical Center and Rappaport Faculty of Medicine was run but with just 20 men, 15 of those were able to achieve erections after six months of ESWT. After the study it was concluded that ESWT is capable of rehabilitating erectile tissue and can be considered a new standard of care for men with ED. This particular study also showed that ESWT could potentially restore erectile function without the need for additional pharmacotherapy.

An additional study carried out in India with 60 men found that ESWT demonstrated a positive long-term improvement in the erectile function of the Indian men involved in the study. This particular study also concluded that this form of therapy could be considered an attractive and effective treatment option for men dealing with vasculogenic erectile dysfunction.

Is it safe?

ESWT is safe because the sound waves are of a very low energy output, according to Delphine Behr-Roussel of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines University in France, who is studying the effects in rats. This has been further supported by Dr Feldman (an MD who investigated ESWT) who has stated, "Li-ESWT is quiet, painless, and requires no anaesthesia".

However, some critics are not so easily pacified with some saying you 'might as well hit your penis with a hammer because such technology is designed to be destructive.' Yikes! It is important to consider that medical professionals are in agreement that whilst early studies into this method of treatment for ED are promising, more studies are definitely required to discover just how effective or safe this therapy can truly be.

When will it be available?

Some select clinics around the world already offer the treatment, but others are waiting for the procedure to become standardised a tested further.

Although the treatment is still under investigation and more studies are needed before ESWT could be a procedure offered by the NHS, it's great that alternatives to erectile dysfunction medication are constantly being explored and trialled.

A choice of treatments is important for those men and their partners who are suffering with the effects of ED. For those who don't like scheduling sex around a pill, or for those who are experiencing side effects associated with taking ED medication, this form of therapy might be the route forward in the future.

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