Self-injected drugs for erection problems
Self-injected drugs—or penile injections—are available to help men with erection problems related to prostate cancer treatments.
Drugs such as papaverine hydrochloride, phentolamine, and alprostadil (marketed as Caverject® and Edex®) are injected through a small needle into the base of the penis, causing it to become engorged with blood. Only alprostadil (which is a commercially created version of prostaglandin E1, a natural substance a man’s body makes to produce erections) is currently approved for erectile dysfunction in the U.S.
The drug is typically injected 5 to 20 minutes prior to having sex and may last from 30 minutes to an hour or more. There are different dosages available and it may take some trial and error to find the right dose. Your loved one’s doctor will most likely do the first injection in the office to show you how it’s done.
A delicate matter
While these drugs can often be very effective, some men may be adverse to the idea of sticking a needle in their penis. If impotence continues to be a problem, your loved one may eventually warm up to the idea of using a needle.
If your man has eyesight or dexterity problems, then you will have to be the one to do the injection. When the injection is done correctly, it shouldn’t be painful.
Your loved one may experience some slight soreness (due to the injection), so you may want to plan to use the drug when you don’t have to go anywhere, or do anything physical afterwards. However, your loved one may find that the “pain” is worth the “gain” achieved with a self-injected drug.
There are also usually limitations to how often these drugs can be used. The doctor should give you specific
instructions. It’s also important to discuss any other health problems your loved one has—or other medications he is taking—with his doctor.
While most side effects are generally expected to be minimal, sometimes these drugs can cause unwanted side effects with repeated use, such as scarring or curving of the penis. If your loved one has an erection for more than 4 hours (called priapism), seek immediate medical attention.
Always discuss everything you read on this web site with a qualified medical professional.
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The American Cancer Society. Prostate Cancer. http://www.cancer.org. Accessed September 1, 2008.
National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Erectile Dysfunction. http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/impotence. Accessed November 30, 2008.
Walsh PC. Guide to Surviving Prostate Cancer. New York, NY: Time Warner Book Group; 2001.