Using a Penis Pump for Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

Vacuum device that can help you achieve an erection

A penis pump is a mechanical device that can help treat erectile dysfunction (ED). Also known as a vacuum pump or vacuum erection device, it works by creating a vacuum that suctions blood into the penis to help achieve and maintain an erection needed for sex.

Although a penis pump cannot cure ED, it can help improve the quality of erections and the sex lives of people living with this all-too-common condition.

This article explores the underlying causes of erectile dysfunction and how a penis pump might help. It also explains how a penis pump is used, as well as the possible risks and limitations.

Manual penis pump for erectile dysfunction (ED)

marshack / Getty Images

What Does a Penis Pump Do?

When people hear the term "penis pump," the first thing that often comes to mind is penis enlargement. Though people often buy the device for that reason, a penis pump cannot make your penis larger.

It can, however, help a person achieve an erection when there are problems that impede the flow of blood into the penis.

An erection involves a complex interaction of emotions, nerves, hormones, blood vessels, and smooth muscles that work together to engorge the penis with blood and prevent the backflow of blood once it has been achieved.

People with erectile dysfunction may have issues with blood flowing into the penis and engorging the tissues. The band of tissues at the base of the penis may also not tighten as they should, which can cause blood to escape.

With the suction it provides, a penis pump can help draw blood into the penis and keep it there to achieve an erection.

A penis pump may be used with or without ED drugs like Viagra and Cialis, depending on the severity of the condition.

A pump is also often used with an erectile dysfunction ring ("cock ring") that fits at the base of the penis behind the scrotum. This helps keep the blood in the penis once an erection has been achieved.

Benefits of a Penis Pump

Penis pumps can be extremely effective for many people with ED. In fact, if erectile dysfunction is mild, a penis pump may be all that is needed to achieve an erection.

Many people with ED may be able to sustain an erection for 30 minutes or longer. Those who can't may reapply the device to restore an erection.

According to a 2018 review published in the Journal of Urology, six studies involving the use of penis pumps in people with ED reported satisfaction rates of 80% or higher, while 11 reported rates of 60% or higher.

Other benefits of using a penis pump:

  • Easy to use: The device is relatively simple, and some models are powered (so you don't need to pump manually).
  • Fast-acting: You may only have to wait half a minute to a few minutes to see results. Studies have shown that even individuals with nerve damage following prostate removal surgery are able to attain an erection with a pump within about two to three minutes.
  • Cost effective: As a one-time, reusable purchase, they are cheaper than a prescription you need to keep filling.
  • Drug-free: They are a great option for people who cannot use ED drugs called phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (PDE5 inhibitors), although a pump can—and often is—used along with these drugs.
  • Effects are on-demand: Unlike medications you take and wait to work, a pump can be effective whenever the mood strikes you. It can also be incorporated into foreplay.

Risks of Using a Penis Pump

There are risks associated with penis pumps, particularly novelty pumps.

Petechiae, a type of red skin spot caused by the rupture of capillaries, is one of the more common issues. This is often due to over-pumping the device or leaving it on for too long.

If too much pressure is applied, the pump can cause pain, bruising, bluish skin, urethral bleeding, and hematomas (blood pooling due to ruptured vessels).

Some people, particularly older adults, may find that the penis is unstable after pumping and experience twisting at the base when intercourse is attempted.

Some people also find it harder to ejaculate after using a penis pump as it can cause the tissues around the urethra to swell, pinching off the exit. If ejaculation does occur, it can be painful. The penis itself may also feel numb, and orgasm may be harder to achieve.

With the long-term overuse of a penis pump, scar tissues can begin to form in the skin and underlying tissues. While the penis may look larger due to the build-up of the tissue, it will often feel spongy rather than hard. There may also be permanent numbness.

The overuse of the ED ring can also cause nerve injury that worsens rather than improves ED. This is why you should never fall asleep with an ED ring on, particularly if you've taken a PDE5 inhibitor like Viagra.

  • Quick and easy to use

  • Increases spontaneity

  • Non-invasive

  • Can be used in foreplay

  • Affordable and reusable

  • Few contraindications

  • Safety features on VEDs

  • Can be bulky and messy

  • Pain due to suctioning

  • Difficulty ejaculating

  • Pain with ejaculation

  • Petechiae is common

  • Possible numbness

  • Possible penis instability

Who Shouldn't Use a Penis Pump

There are few contraindications to penis pumps other than having bleeding disorders like hemophilia or blood-clotting disorders like sickle cell disease. People with ischemic priapism, a recurrent form of priapism in which an erection is abnormally prolonged, may also be advised to avoid the device.

People on blood thinners like warfarin and anti-platelet drugs like Plavix (clopidogrel) should speak with their healthcare provider before using a penis pump as the suctioning may cause bruising and bleeding.

Speak with a healthcare provider before using a penis pump to ensure that it is the right option for you.

Choosing the Right Device

While people will often buy novelty penis pumps online or in sex shops, there are medically approved vacuum erection devices (VEDs) that have built-in safeguards called limiters to prevent injury to the penis.

VEDs vary in design, but consist of a closed-ended clear plastic cylinder and a vacuum pump this is either hand- or battery-operated with a digital readout to limit the amount of negative pressure a penis is subject to.

VEDs tend to fit over the penis only, rather than over the penis and scrotum, as some novelty devices do.

VEDs are classified as Class II devices by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are approved by the American Urological Association for the treatment of ED. Some are available over the counter, while others can be prescribed by a urologist who specializes in the male reproductive tract.

Some health providers also refer to the devices as vacuum constrictive devices (VCDs) or external penile rigidity devices (EPRDs).

How to Use a Penis Pump: Step by Step

There are several preparations you need to make in advance of pumping. If you intend to use condoms, buy a water-based lubricant that does not degrade or damage latex condoms. If you plan to use an ED ring—which almost invariably improves the quality of an erection—you should also keep it close at hand.

To operate a manual or battery-operated VED:

  1. Lubricate: Coat the base of the penis with lubricant as well as the rim of the cylinder to ensure an airtight seal.
  2. Insert: Place the cylinder over the penis until it rests flush against the skin. Move the scrotum into a comfortable position.
  3. Suction: Using the hand- or battery-operated control, suction out the air to create a vacuum. Draw out enough air so that you feel significant pressure but no pain. The limiter will prevent over-suctioning.
  4. Wait: Most people can achieve an erection within 30 seconds to seven minutes. If you feel any pain or discomfort, ease back by using the release valve.
  5. Remove: Position one hand around the base of the penis, and remove the cylinder with the other.
  6. Grip: Tighten your grip around the penis to keep blood from escaping. With your free hand, grab the ED ring and strap it around the base of your penis behind the scrotum.

Time Limit

You should wear an ED ring for no more than 30 minutes as anything longer can cause nerve injury. If you want an erection to last longer, remove the ring for several minutes and start again.

Additional tips:

  • If you start to lose an erection, remove the ED ring and start again.
  • If there is any instability in the penis, you can help stabilize it by holding it firmly at the base. Lubricate the penis and your partner's vagina or anus well.
  • If you still have problems with insertion, switch positions until you find one that offers easier access.


A penis pump or vacuum erection device (VED) can be used to treat erectile dysfunction (ED). The device is used to suction blood into the penis to help achieve and maintain an erection. While novelty devices are available over the counter, a vacuum erection device prescribed by a urologist is safer.

People with a blood clotting disorder or those who take anticoagulants should not use a vacuum erection device.

A Word From Verywell

Don't assume that your ED is untreatable simply because erectile dysfunction medications don't work for you. Sometimes, it takes more than one treatment to get your condition right.

A penis pump is one such option. But rather than just buying one online and seeing if it works, speak with a healthcare provider or urologist to identify the underlying cause of your ED. By doing so, you may find the right combination of treatments for you.

If a penis pump is recommended, your healthcare provider can point you in the direction of the safest options and teach you how to use it properly. Some pumps may even be covered in part by insurance.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can penis pumps increase the size of a penis?

    Although some people will buy them to increase the size of a penis, studies show that they do nothing to increase the length. They may, however, increase the girth nominally due to the build-up of scar tissue.

  • Do penis pumps cure erectile dysfunction?

    No. Penis pumps simply help you achieve an erection by drawing blood into the penis, which then can be trapped with a constriction ring ("cock ring"). Unless the cause is purely psychological, there is no effective cure for erectile dysfunction.

  • Are there any risks to using a cock ring?

    Erectile dysfunction rings are simple, effective devices that can improve the quality of an erection. Even so, they should not be worn for more than 30 minutes as this can cause nerve injury. Experts also advise against using solid metal rings as they can cut off circulation and cause tissue damage if they get stuck during an erection.

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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.
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By James Myhre & Dennis Sifris, MD
Dennis Sifris, MD, is an HIV specialist and Medical Director of LifeSense Disease Management. James Myhre is an American journalist and HIV educator.