Shockwaves May Alleviate Erectile Dysfunction
Disponible en Español |
Since the FDA approved the drug Sildenafil (commonly known as Viagra®) in 1998, there have been no major advances in treatments for erectile dysfunction. That may soon change, thanks to new research led by expert urologist Dr. Ranjith Ramasamy.
Dr. Ramasamy is currently one of the few clinical researchers nationally conducting research to assess the safety and efficacy of a new way to help men with ED: low-intensity shockwave therapy.
The drawbacks of shockwave therapy appear to be minimal, according to Dr. Ramasamy. And the benefits could include a major milestone: natural restoration of erectile functioning, with no further need for follow-up treatments, drugs or therapies, for some men.
The science of shockwaves
Linear shockwave therapy uses a small device to deliver short, incredibly fast bursts of energy to a targeted part of the body. It’s an acoustic wave therapy, similar to ultrasound. The therapy has been used successfully for several years to speed up the healing of orthopaedic and sports medicine injuries. In 2010, linear shockwave therapy began being studied in the treatment of erectile dysfunction.
“The treatment was known to increase the growth of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) in patients where the energy was applied,” explains Dr. Ramasamy. “Doctors and researchers reasoned that the principle might help men with erectile dysfunction.”
The therapy is painless to a patient, and there are no known side effects. The energy is applied to the exact areas of the penis where blood flow needs to improve.
“ED is usually the result of inefficient blood flow,” he adds. “Either the arteries inside the penis have narrowed or are blocked, or the blood vessels leading into the penis could be blocked. Shockwave therapy appears to increase blood flow to the penis and helps recruit stem cells that will enable better erections. Men with mild erectile dysfunction are seen as the best candidates for this therapy.”
How prevalent is ED?
Perhaps the easiest way to remember it is to think of the number 50. The condition is often defined as difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection at least 50% of the time. And it can affect younger men, but approximately 50% of men over age 50 experience some degree of erectile dysfunction.
“The erectile process is more involved than most people think,” shares Dr. Ramasamy. “It takes the work of the body’s neurologic, vascular, psychologic and endocrine (hormone) systems. If one element is not performing, the rest can’t either.”
Erectile dysfunction also is often a sign of other underlying health conditions. It can be a manifestation of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Its causes can include blocked blood vessels, obesity, low testosterone levels, and a related impact of other injuries and treatments.
So what about the pill form?
Advertising and mass awareness of drugs like Viagra, Cialis and Levitra have helped turn talking about ED from taboo to trendy. But what is less frequently discussed is the success rate of such drugs.
“Typically, the drugs are ineffective in whole, or in part, for up to 50 percent of men,” shares Dr. Ramasamy. “Men experiencing persistent or severe erectile dysfunction, in particular, gain little benefit.”
The potential of a cure
Dr. Ramasamy’s FDA-cleared study began in March 2017 and has completed 120 patients. The next trial involving a sham arm is underway, and patients are being enrolled now. Men were randomly assigned to one of two groups:
- Men received five consecutive daily treatments (720 shockwaves per session) for one week.
- Men received three days of treatment (600 shockwaves per session) weekly for two weeks.
- The treatment took only 12 to 15 minutes, and about 50% of men demonstrated a response.
“We’ve already learned that the improvement is fairly similar in both groups of men, but men with mild ED appear to respond better than those with more severe ED,” explains Dr. Ramasamy.
“Our hope is that this therapy can eventually be FDA-approved for men needing long-term clinical management of ED — either as an alternative or as an adjunct therapy to other treatments,” offers Dr. Ramasamy.