How an Erectile Dysfunction Ring Can Help Erectile Dysfunction

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The first treatments that tend to come to mind when you talk about erectile dysfunction (ED) are drugs like Viagra (sildenafil) and Cialis (tadalafil). But several nondrug options can also help improve erections either on their own or with other ED treatments.

This article explores one such option, called an erectile dysfunction ring, that may be useful in people with mild ED or those in whom ED drugs are either ineffective or cannot be used. The article also lists the possible risks of ED rings and the people who should not use them.

Erectile dysfunction ring (cock ring) with box

Marco Verch / Flickr Creative Commons license 2.0 generic

What Is an Erectile Dysfunction Ring?

An erectile dysfunction ring is an elastic or solid band that fits around the base of the penis to help maintain an erection. Also known as a penile ring, tension ring, or "cock ring," it helps treat ED by preventing the backflow of blood from the penis when it is erect. By doing so, both the quality and duration of an erection can be improved.

Some people with mild ED may benefit from using an ED ring on its own or with a device called a vacuum pump ("penis pump") that draws blood into the penis using suction.

Others may use ED rings as part of a holistic treatment plan involving ED medications called PDE5 inhibitors, lifestyle changes (e.g., exercise and weight loss), counseling, injectable drugs like Caverject (alprostadil), and testosterone replacement therapy.

What It Treats

Erectile dysfunction, formerly known as impotence, is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection suitable for sexual intercourse. It is a condition that commonly affects people over the age of 40. The risk increases with age, with around 40 percent affected by age 40 and nearly 70 percent affected by age 70.

There are many possible causes of ED, many of which are aging-related and others of which are not. It is not uncommon for several different conditions to contribute to ED.

Causes and risk factors of ED include:

When an ED Ring May Help

ED rings can help treat certain aspects of erectile dysfunction, namely those affecting blood flow to the penis (such as high blood pressure or vascular disease) or the entrapment of blood once the penis is engorged (such as penile trauma and Peyronie's disease). They may not be as useful if ED is due to a neurological, hormonal, or psychological cause.

How It Works

An erection is a complex physiological response involving nerves, hormones, blood vessels, connective tissues, and smooth muscles.

The penis itself is comprised of two tube-like structures, called the corpora cavernosa, that run the length of the penis and become engorged with blood during an erection.

To prevent the backflow of blood, a band of fiber near the base of the penis called the tunica albuginea will tighten, capturing blood that would otherwise escape. When sexual arousal has passed, the tunica albuginea will relax and the penis will return to its flaccid state.

In people with ED, the flow of blood into the corpora cavernosa may be impaired and/or the tunica albuginea may become less efficient. An ED ring can help overcome both of these issues. Even if the blood flow is reduced, any blood that enters the penis will become trapped as the base of the penis begins to swell and becomes compressed by the ring.

ED rings work by supporting the tunica albuginea, which tends to thicken and harden with age and become less efficient. It can do the same if the tunica albuginea becomes lax, such as can occur with Peyronie's disease or penile trauma.

How to Use It

Erectile dysfunction rings are popular options for people with ED in that they don't require a prescription or a doctor's visit. They are relatively cheap, reusable, and can be easily found online or in adult sex shops.

Types

There are both soft and hard ED rings made with different materials, including silicone, rubber, neoprene, leather, plastic, or metal. Many are designed as solid rings of various thicknesses and circumferences. Others are adjustable types and held in place with snaps, velcro, or other fasteners.

There are also variations that not only fit around the base of the penis but have a second attached ring, sometimes called a "ball stretcher," that is worn around the base of the scrotum. This additional attachment is said to enhance erections.

There are also vibrating rings that can be stimulating for both male and female partners. Lasso-type rings are long pieces of cord, often made of leather or rubber, that are held in place by a neck bandanna-type ring.

Choosing a Ring

The choice of ED ring is largely a personal one. With that said, solid rings need to be properly sized so that they are comfortable and neither too tight nor too loose when you get an erection. This is less of a concern with adjustable rings or soft silicone rings that are stretchy.

Before use, some people will "manscape" the area around the base of the penis, shaving away excess hair so that they don't get snagged as you put on the device. It can also reduce irritation and chafing if you are especially hairy.

Because the design of ED rings can vary, follow the manufacturer's instructions to ensure the ring is put on and worn correctly. This can reduce the risk of discomfort or injury.

Vacuum Pumps

Vacuum pumps can be used beforehand to achieve an erection. After suctioning, grab the base on the penis with one hand to keep blood from escaping and quickly apply the ED ring with the other hand. Soft silicone or adjustable ED rings are best suited for this.

Risks

There are risks associated with ED rings and certain people who should not use them.

Because ED rings restrict blood flow, it’s important to not wear one for longer than 30 minutes. This is especially true if you take Viagra or other PDE inhibitors. Doing so can lead to a medical emergency called priapism in which the penis remains erect.

If an ED ring is "stuck" and cannot be removed, blood circulation can become strangulated and lead to tissue death or nerve damage.

Adjustable rings or soft silicone rings are generally safer as they can be easily removed or cut off in an emergency. Metal rings should be avoided.

If an ED ring causes pain, numbness, bruising, pins-and-needles sensations, or the skin to turn blue, remove it immediately. These are signs that the ring is too small and needs either adjustment or replacement.

Certain people should not use ED rings. These include people with sickle cell disease and blood-clotting disorders, as the restriction of blood flow can lead to the formation of clots and the total obstruction of a blood vessel.

Speak to your doctor if you are on blood thinners like warfarin or antiplatelet drugs like Plavix (clopidogrel) before using an ED ring or any other constrictive ED device.

Never fall asleep with an ED ring still on.

Summary

An erectile dysfunction ring is a band that goes around the base of the penis to restrict blood flow out of the penis and maintain an erection. ED rings are available over the counter in many different designs. Care must be taken that the ring is not too tight or there can be damage to the penile tissues. People with clotting disorders or those taking anticoagulants should not use an ED ring.

A Word From Verywell

Erection dysfunction rings are simple and often effective means to improve the quality or duration of erections. For some people, they may be all that is needed to sustain an erection suitable for intercourse.

If they are not, do not be embarrassed to speak with your primary care provider, who may refer to you a urologist for further evaluation. Generally speaking, a urologist should be seen if you are failing to get or sustain an erection 50 percent of the time or if ED is causing emotional distress or affecting your relationship or ability to conceive.

There are many treatments for ED today that extend beyond Viagra or Cialis. By meeting with a specialist, you can pinpoint the cause and find the options that work best for you as an individual.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is the erectile dysfunction ring safe?

    It can be if used correctly. The International Society of Sexual Medicine recommends silicone or adjustable rings that can be easily removed rather than metal rings that can get "stuck" and cause a medical emergency known as priapism in which an abnormally prolonged erection can cut off blood circulation in the penis.

  • How do you choose an erectile dysfunction ring?

    Size matters when choosing a ring. If you choose to use a solid ring, you can get the right size by wrapping a length of string around the base of the penis, ideally while it is erect. To get the correct circumference, fold the string in half and measure it. Soft silicone and adjustable rings are generally easier to use and size.

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11 Sources
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