Erectile Dysfunction Cream: What You Need To Know

Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, is a condition in which the penis cannot obtain, or sustain, an erection firm enough for sex.

ED is a very common condition, affecting around 30 million people with a penis in the United States. In fact, most people with a penis will experience bouts of ED at some point in their lives. However, when it occurs more than 50% of the time, there is likely an underlying issue.

Alternatives to Erectile Dysfunction Cream - Illustration by Laura Porter

Verywell / Laura Porter

When it comes to ED, more than one factor is often involved, including those both psychological and physical. Risk factors of ED include heart disease, diabetes, older age, depression, and anxiety.

One newer option for ED treatment is erectile dysfunction cream, which is applied topically. Read on to learn more about ED cream, including its Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warnings and risks, as well as other potential treatment options.

Erectile Dysfunction Cream

Traditional ED treatment consists of taking oral phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitors. However, these medications, such as Viagra, are not safe for all patients struggling with ED due to systemic side effects and drug-drug interactions (two or more drugs reacting with one another). For example, these medications may lower blood pressure, which is dangerous for those who have heart disease such as angina, a condition of severe pain in the chest.

Erectile dysfunction creams, also known as erection creams, are a newer form of treatment for ED. These medicated creams are applied topically to the penis prior to sex. These medications are potentially linked to fewer systemic side effects, especially for those with diabetes or heart disease.

It is important to note that research is still quite limited regarding ED cream's efficacy and safety. No erection creams are currently FDA approved.

That said, some studies have shown that ED creams may be an effective treatment option in the future, particularly when they contain the ingredient alprostadil.

Alprostadil Cream

Vitaros is a type of erectile dysfunction cream. It contains the ingredient alprostadil, a natural prostaglandin. Prostaglandins are hormones responsible for many functions, including the opening and closing of blood vessels.

A 2016 research review looked into alprostadil cream's efficacy and safety, and found it to be both a well-tolerated and effective alternative treatment for ED.

However, the review also stressed that more clinical trials were still necessary to fully understand the true safety and efficacy of alprostadil cream, particularly in populations with multiple comorbidities (conditions that exist along with other conditions) or nonvascular cases of ED (those not associated with blood flow through the blood vessels).

FDA Warnings

Vitaros is not yet FDA approved. In fact, according to Reuters, it was rejected by the FDA in 2018 for the second time in 10 years.

The FDA has published warnings against over-the-counter (OTC) sexual enhancement products, citing hidden active ingredients that may be harmful.

Always talk to your doctor before incorporating any medication into your life, including those that are available over the counter.


While Vitaros alprostadil cream is generally well-tolerated, a 2016 study did report users experiencing mild, short-lived side effects, including genital pain, tenderness, and skin redness.

As well, the following populations should not use alprostadil cream:

Other ED Treatments

If ED cream doesn't sound like the right treatment method for you, there are a number of other options available. Some of these include:

  • Vacuum erection device (VED): This type of treatment is comprised of a plastic tube and lubricant that is fitted around the penis. Air is pumped out of the tube, creating a vacuum effect, which helps draw blood into the shaft of the penis, thus causing an erection.
  • Intraurethral alprostadil: This medication is a type of synthetic vasodilator (widens blood vessels) suppository that is inserted into the urethra to help with symptoms of ED.
  • Penile injection therapy: These injections contain medication to cause an erection, such as papaverine, phentolamine, or alprostadil. They can generally be self-administered at home, with an erection following an injection by five to 15 minutes.


Currently, ED cream is not commonly used in clinical practice, so it has some limitations when it comes to using it as a treatment option. Other treatments, such as oral medications, injections, and penile pumps, are more likely to be used to help with erectile dysfunction symptoms.

A Word From Verywell

Erectile dysfunction can be an upsetting, isolating condition. However, there are treatment options available for those struggling with ED. For most people, oral phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitors, such as Viagra, are prescribed. However, given the risks for certain populations, these medications are not always the best option.

That said, once it gains FDA approval, erectile dysfunction cream may be a great future option for those struggling with ED and unable to tolerate other forms of treatment.

In the meantime, talk to your healthcare provider if you're experiencing repeated issues with ED. A physician can identify any underlying causes that can be treated, which may help with the erectile dysfunction you're experiencing. Remember, there is nothing to be ashamed of. ED is incredibly common.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do you use cream for erectile dysfunction?

    Cream for erectile dysfunction is simply applied to the penis directly before sex.

  • Where can I buy topical cream for erectile dysfunction?

    Erection creams for ED can be purchased OTC, though it is not recommended (or approved of) by the FDA. Talk to your doctor before incorporating any new medication regimen, including topical treatments like alprostadil cream.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Definition & facts for erectile dysfunction. Updated July 2017.

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Erectile dysfunction. Updated October 14, 2019.

  3. Anaissie J, Hellstrom WJ. Clinical use of alprostadil topical cream in patients with erectile dysfunction: a reviewRes Rep Urol. 2016;8:123-131. doi:10.2147/RRU.S68560

  4. Reuters. Shares of Apricus tank after FDA declines to OK erectile dysfunction cream. Updated February 16, 2018.

  5. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Tainted Sexual Enhancement Products. Updated August 8, 2021.

  6. Jain A, Iqbal OA. Alprostadil. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; Updated 2021.

  7. Costa P, Potempa AJ. Intraurethral alprostadil for erectile dysfunction: a review of the literatureDrugs. 2012;72(17):2243-2254.

  8. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Penile Injection Therapy. Updated May 21, 2021.

By Molly Burford
Molly Burford is a mental health advocate and wellness book author with almost 10 years of experience in digital media.