Penis Pumps: How They Work

Written by the Manual Team · Medically approved by Dr Earim Chaudry - MD

In 30 seconds…

What are penis pumps? Also known as vacuum erection pumps or vacuum constriction devices, penis pumps are a type of mechanical therapeutic device that can help treat erectile dysfunction (ED). Consisting of a tube that covers your penis, a seal at the base, and a battery-powered vacuum, penis pumps work by physically pulling blood into the penis.

The penis pump is one of a number of treatments for erectile dysfunction. Whilst marketed as an alternative to medications such as Cialis and Viagra, vacuum pumps do pose a risk of injury if used incorrectly. However, many men use them successfully to help them achieve and sustain an erection.

Penis Pumps and Erectile Dysfunction

Penis pumps are a drug-free treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED), a common condition that consists of difficulties getting and keeping an erection long enough to have sex. ED can happen to men of all ages, with 40% of men at 40 having experienced it.

The condition is usually caused by problems in blood flow to the penis. This can be due to a number of different psychological or physical factors – from stress to poor cardiovascular health to hormonal imbalances – and treatments for ED usually work by encouraging improved blood flow to where you want it.

Penis pumps – otherwise known as vacuum pumps or vacuum constriction devices – are no exception. However, these do by mechanical means what other treatments do medicinally, which can be good for people who cannot tolerate ED drugs like Cialis or Viagra.

In this article, we’ll look at everything about penis pumps – from how they work to safety concerns and effectiveness.

 

How Do Penis Pumps Work?

Penis pumps work to give you an erection by drawing blood into the penis by means of a vacuum.

The pumps consist of a plastic tube that is placed over the penis and a pump – either manual or electric – that is connected to the tube to create a vacuum. As the air is sucked out of the tube, blood is drawn into your penis, giving you an erection. Once the desired hardness is reached, a penis ring is placed around the base of your penis to keep it firm. After twenty to thirty minutes, the ring should be removed to avoid cutting off the blood supply to your penis.

 

Are Penis Pumps Safe?

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Mechanical contraptions for ED might seem like something a little scary. However, penis pumps are generally safe and easy to use – and users and their partners show a satisfaction rate of over 80%.

Troubles can come with overuse and when using the device with prior medical conditions. Whilst many men will be able to safely use the penis pump every day, others may not, with overuse sometimes resulting in less satisfactory results.

Men who are taking medications for blood-thinning – such as warfarin or clopidogrel – should not use a penis pump, as they are at increased risk of bleeding. Those with sickle-cell anaemia or other blood disorders are at a greater risk of blood clots too.

The important thing is that you use the penis pump correctly. Ensure that you buy one with a “vacuum limiter”, which works to counteract excessive pressure in the pump.

 

Are There Side Effects of Using a Penis Pump?

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Side effects of using penis pumps include mild bleeding beneath the surface of your penis. This is known as petechiae and is seen in little red dots on your skin.

At other times, your penis can become blue, numb, or cold. This is usually merely the result of the constriction band. When this is removed, your penis should return to normal. Ensure you do remove it, however, otherwise you risk permanently cutting off blood to your penis.

Other people report awkward or unnatural-feeling erections, whilst it may also be less firm at its base.

 

Can Penis Pumps Give You a Larger Penis?

It is a common myth about Viagra too, but there is a rumour that penis pumps can give you a larger penis. This isn’t exactly true: penis pumps cannot make your penis permanently larger.

What they can do is give you a fuller erection, which may make your penis appear larger. People with ED often don’t achieve their full penis size. A penis pump – and any other ED treatment – can help this.

 

Who Should Use a Penis Pump?

Penis pumps are an alternative treatment for ED that doesn’t include the use of drugs. This makes them helpful for anyone who does not respond well to medicinal ED treatments. However, there are many other reasons why people might use a penis pump, too. For example, people who have recently undergone prostate surgery can use a penis pump to return sensation and activity to their penis.

Other ED Treatments

For those of you who are squeamish about using a mechanical device to help your erections, there are other treatments available for ED. These include medications, a healthy lifestyle, and, in some cases, penile implants.

 

ED Medications: PDE5 Inhibitors

Whilst some people do not tolerate ED medications, drugs like Viagra and Cialis are safe and effective for the vast majority of men. Viagra alone is prescribed 3 million times annually, just in the UK.

Both drugs are powered by active agents known as PDE5 inhibitors – Sildenafil for Viagra and Tadalafil for Cialis – that inhibit the PDE5 enzyme and regulate blood flow in the penis by affecting the smooth muscle contraction of the blood vessels supplying the penis. Blood flow is therefore improved to (and within) the penis, allowing for firmer and more sustained erections.

Both Sildenafil and Tadalafil are effective in over 80% of men – and they are very well-tolerated.

Penile Implants

Another treatment for ED – but one that is much less common – is the penile implant. These are inflatable medical devices that are surgically implanted into the penis’s corpora cavernosa – the area in the penis which fills with blood when you have an erection. As blood enters your penis when aroused, the implant inflates too. Whilst surgery does seem like quite a dramatic response to ED, studies show satisfaction rates in 90% of men who undergo this operation. So, you certainly have options.