Sexual Wellness

Are Penis Pumps Effective for Erectile Dysfunction?

Fact Checked

Thinking of trying a penis pump? Here’s what you need to know about safely using these devices for erectile dysfunction.

Last Updated: 01/08/2022

Written by

Kimberly Wilkes

Whether you have outright ED or have gone a little soft with aging, you’re probably looking into the different ways you can enhance erectile function. One of those ways is using a penis pump. But do penis pumps really work? And are they the best choice for you? This blog post will answer those questions so you can make an informed decision. 

What Are Penis Pumps?

Penis pumps are suction devices used to temporarily increase blood flow to the penis, long enough to create and maintain an erection. They’re made of a plastic tube that covers the penis, a hand or battery-powered pump connected to the tube, and a constriction ring, which is a band placed around the base of the penis after it’s erect. The constriction ring holds the blood in the penis to maintain a longer erection. 

A penis pump is also known as a vacuum pump or vacuum erection device. 

Advantages of Penis Pumps

 Penis pumps work. If they’re used correctly and with practice, these devices can lead to an erection suitable for sexual intercourse in most men. 

• They can be used with other solutions. Penis pumps can be used together with other solutions such as ED medications, acoustic wave therapy, or a penile implant. In fact, some men have the best success when they combine different methods.  

• Penis pumps aren’t invasive. No surgery or penile injections are required, making these a non-invasive method. 

• They have less risks than many other ED treatments. Penis pumps do have some side effects (more on this later). However, their risk of side effects or complications is lower than many other methods. 

• Penis pumps are affordable. They’re less expensive than most ED solutions on the market, including ED medications.

• They can be used after prostate surgery. Penis pumps are safe to use after a radical prostatectomy.   

Possible Side Effects of Penis Pumps

Most men can safely use a penis pump. However, sometimes adverse effects can happen. 

• Pain or bruising. Make sure you learn how to correctly use your penis pump. This can reduce your risk of injuring your penis. 

• A cold or numb feeling or skin that looks blue. This can be due to tightness of the constriction band.   

• Feeling like your semen is trapped. When you ejaculate, it may feel like your penis won’t release all your semen. Ejaculation may also be painful. In some cases, the constriction rings that come with a penis pump may have a small cut out that can reduce this problem. 

• Little red dots. Bleeding under the surface of the skin of the penis can cause little red spots called petechiae.

Who Shouldn’t Use a Penis Pump?

• Men who take blood-thinning medications. Medications like warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven) or clopidogrel (Plavix) can cause an increased risk of bleeding.

• Men who have sickle cell anemia or another blood disorder. Men with these types of disorders are more at risk of blood clots or bleeding.  

How to Choose a Penis Pump 

There are different kinds of penis pumps on the market. Some are more affordable and suitable for men just getting started. Others are more advanced. Some pumps include tension rings and others don’t. Some pumps have a pressure meter built in. Some products come with a hand pump while others are electrical. 

Regardless of what kind of pump you choose, we strongly recommended you opt for a medical grade pump. Although the more advanced versions have more features, the way the pumps are used are basically the same.

Using a Penis Pump

Here is how to use a penis pump. There’s also a great YouTube video that explains the process.

  • Connect the air hose into the vacuum chamber assembly

  • Make sure the other end is connected into the suction pump.

  • Choose the silicone ring that best suits you. Apply a water-based lubricant to the silicone ring before use. You can also apply lubricant to your penis shaft and base of your penis.

  • Slide the appropriate silicone ring on to the vacuum chamber. Make sure it fits well. If it’s loose or on halfway it may not create the appropriate seal. Don’t worry that the opening looks too small. It will significantly expand to create an air tight seal around your shaft. It should feel snug but not painful. 

  • Insert your penis into the tube.

  • Pump out the air, to create a vacuum. If your pump has a built in pressure meter, do not exceed 5 PSI or .03 MPa. If your pump does not have a pressure gauge, apply pressure until you feel uncomfortable. It is normal to feel mild pressure as blood enters into penile tissues. Mild discomfort is normal. Anything more severe is not. 

  • If air leaks out you may need to pump more to maintain an ideal level of suction.

  • When you’re finished, press the release valve to eliminate suction. Keep it in the open position as you slide out your penis. If it hurts to remove, make sure you have allowed enough air back into the chamber to reduce pressure. In addition, allow enough time for blood to flow out of the shaft back into the rest of your body.

  • Wash the pump with warm water and soap right after use. Allow it to air dry and do not let it sit in direct sunlight.

If you experience bruising or small red dots on the skin, stop pumping. Older guys in particular should be careful not to pump so much that you damage blood vessels under your skin. 

A Few Tips for Maximizing Use

• Follow directions specific to your device – Since penis pumps can vary slightly, be sure to follow the directions that come with the unit you have purchased.

• Shave your pubic hair – This can prevent hair from getting stuck in the penis pump ring. It may also improve the seal around your pubic area.

• Don’t leave the ring on too long – Keeping the ring on for more than 30 minutes may block blood flow to the penis. This can lead to injury. 

What Can Be Used Together With Penis Pumps? 

There are a number of ways to tackle ED. If you have this condition, you’ve got a number of options. Penis pumps are only one of them. In fact, penis pumps can be used together with these other therapies to maximize your success rate:

• ED Pills – One of the most common methods to treat ED is the use of medications like sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn), tadalafil (Cialis), and avanafil (Stendra). These medications work temporarily to increase blood flow to the penis. Unfortunately, they can stop working over time and they are associated with a dizzying array of side effects, some of them serious.

• Penile Injections – Even though this type of ED treatment can be effective, it’s painful. You  have to administer the injections at home. The shots contain one or more types of medications that can temporarily enhance blood flow to the penis. These are usually only used if a first line treatment such as ED pills do not solve your problem. Side effects of penile injections include:

  • Bleeding or bruising at the injection site

  • Temporary irritation and swelling

  • Mild pain

  • Priapism, an erection that lasts too long after sexual stimulation has occurred. If it lasts longer than four hours it’s a medical emergency and should be treated immediately.

• Penile Implants –  Medical devices surgically inserted in the penis, penile implants produce erections on demand. Their drawbacks? Depending on the type of implant, their parts can malfunction, they may require manual dexterity, your penis either may not be as hard as you like or may always be slightly hard. The semirigid rod penile implants can also lead to injury due to constant pressure on the inside of the penis and may be hard to hide under clothing.  

What Penis Pumps Can’t Do

Penis pumps can’t increase your penis size. Stay away from manufacturers who claim that they are effective for penis enlargement. They won’t affect the length or girth. The purpose of a penis pump is to help you get and maintain an erection. This is a beneficial and yet temporary effect.

Frequently Asked Questions About Penis Pumps

Thinking about using a penis pump? Before you get started, here are some answers to common questions about these devices.  

How often can you use a penis pump?

Most men can safely use a penis pump several times a day but you probably won’t need to use it that often.

How long do the effects of a penis pump last?

The firmer erections that can be triggered by a penis pump can last for 30 minutes after use. However, everyone is unique and it may depend upon how aroused you are.

Can I injure myself with a penis pump?

Penis pumps are usually safe and effective. However, as men grow older their blood vessels can become more fragile. If you’re older, avoid using a penis pump too much. Bruising or small red dots on the penis skin are signs that your blood vessels may be damaged and you should stop using the pump immediately. 

Should you stand or sit while using a penis pump?

Standing is best. This ensures a strong airtight seal.