What is erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction (ED), once referred to as impotence, is defined as difficulty getting and maintaining an erection long enough to perform sexual intercourse. ED doesn’t mean a reduced desire for sex.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), ED affects men of all ages, but men are likely to experience it as they get older. The prevalence of ED is as follows:

  • 12 percent of men under 60
  • 22 percent of men in their 60s
  • 30 percent of men 70 and older

There are many treatments for ED. Some involve lifestyle changes, psychotherapy, medication, surgery, or assistance from a device. An ED ring is a common device that can help treat ED.

How erections work

When a man is sexually aroused, the brain causes blood to flow to the penis, making it larger and firmer. Getting and maintaining an erection requires healthy blood vessels.

They let blood flow into the penis and then close off, keeping blood in the penis during sexual arousal. They then open up and let blood flow back when sexual arousal ends.

Physical causes of ED

Many diseases and medical conditions can cause physical damage to arteries, nerves, and muscles, or can affect blood flow, which may all lead to ED. The conditions include:

  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • kidney disease
  • high cholesterol
  • clogged arteries
  • hormonal imbalance

Neurological disorders like back and brain surgeries, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis affect nerve signals and can also cause ED. Many men also experience ED after surgical treatment for prostate cancer.

Other factors that make maintaining an erection difficult can include:

  • surgeries and injuries to the penis or organs around the penis
  • overuse of alcohol, recreational drugs, and nicotine
  • side effects of prescription drugs
  • low testosterone

Other causes of ED

Physical and medical conditions aren’t the only sources of ED. Stress, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and relationship issues can all have negative effects on reaching and maintaining an erection.

Once an episode of ED occurs, the fear of it happening again can block a man’s ability to achieve a subsequent erection. Previous sexual trauma like rape and abuse also can lead to ED.

During just about every television event there are prescription drug commercials advertising ED treatments that include drugs such as Cialis, Viagra, and Levitra. These oral medications work by inducing dilation of the blood vessels in the penis, facilitating blood flow to the penis and helping cause an erection if the man is sexually aroused.

Other prescription treatments like Caverject and Muse are injected or inserted into the penis. These medications also increase blood flow to the penis and will cause an erection with or without sexual arousal.

Prescription medications don’t help all cases of ED. They can also cause unwanted side effects like flushing, headaches, or changes in vision. Most prescription medications for ED can’t be used if you have a history of heart problems or are taking certain medications.

When prescription medications aren’t appropriate, medical devices may help ED. However, surgically-inserted penile implants may not appeal to all men, and some may find vacuum pumps embarrassing or difficult to handle. In those cases, an ED ring might be a good option.

How ED rings work

An ED ring is placed around the base of the penis to slow the flow of blood back from your penis to help maintain an erection. Most are made of flexible material like rubber, silicone, or plastic, and some are made of metal.

Some ED rings have two parts, one circle that fits around the penis, and one that constricts the testicles. Most users find the ring helps an erection last long enough for intercourse.

As ED rings prevent blood from flowing back while the penis is erect, they work best when a man can achieve a partial or full erection but has difficulty maintaining it.

ED rings can also be used with a pump or ED vacuum that fits over the penis and gently pulls blood into the penis by the vacuum created. ED rings are sold on their own or along with pumps and vacuums.

Using an ED ring

When an erection beings, gently stretch the ring over the head of the penis, down the shaft, and to the base. Some tips to keep in mind:

  • be careful to avoid catching pubic hairs
  • lubricant can help ease the ring on and off
  • wash the ED ring gently before and after each use with warm water and a small amount of mild soap


Men with blood-clotting disorders or blood problems such as sickle cell anemia should not use an ED ring, and men on blood-thinning medications should talk to their doctor before using one.

Most manufacturers recommend removing the ring after having it on for 20 minutes. Some men may be sensitive to the material of the ring. Also, men should stop using it if irritation develops in either partner and then see a doctor. Don’t sleep with the ring on, as it may affect blood flow to the penis.

Also, some users find that orgasm with an ED ring isn’t as powerful.

The probability of experiencing ED increases with age, and it’s a common issue, yet sometimes difficult to discuss. Most men will need to try different treatments before discovering what’s right for them. In some cases, more than one approach may be necessary over time.

An ED ring is a good option for healthy men who achieve some erection or who use a penis pump or vacuum to start an erection. ED rings are available from many sources and don’t require a doctor’s prescription. As always, talk to your doctor about any questions or concerns you have about ED rings and stop using them if any irritation or other issues develop.