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Sex, pills and pumps

me by hotel pool.jpgMSer and Feature Writer Ian Cook discusses male sexual dysfunction

Ten years ago I wrote a feature for a former New Pathways editor which had the rather risqué headline “Getting it up is getting me down”. The feature looked at what is referred to as male erectile dysfunction or ED as it is often called.

In the feature, I looked at two ways of overcoming the problem of ED which happens to many men with MS as the illness progresses. The first solution I looked at was the “little blue pill” otherwise known as Viagra. This drug is now better known as sildenafil and is now a little white pill which can be obtained over the counter at pharmacists as well as by prescription in packs of four.

The second way of dealing with erectile dysfunction I looked at was using a vacuum erection device (VED) – a long plastic tube which you place over your penis pressing the blue rubber seal onto the surrounding skin and using the vacuum that the pump creates to bring about the desired erection.

For the past ten years, I have used both approaches and each method has its pros and cons. The advantage of a pill is its simplicity and discretion. And almost as a sign of its success, there is now a drug alternative to sildenafil/Viagra in the shape of Cialis also known as tadalafil. Sildenafil/Viagra has worked well for me but pills aren’t for everyone for medical reasons such as side effects and interactions with other drugs you may be taking.

For this reason, I still believe the drug-free option is worth considering. VEDs are cheap and easy to buy (you can buy them at Ann Summers for around £20) or get them on prescription. VEDs do, however, have two drawbacks. The first is purely practical. Using them for a long time can make you a bit sore. The second problem is they are rather cumbersome, unsightly to be frank and can be a bit of a turn-off for many.

So which is best – the pill or the pump? The fact I still have sildenafil on repeat prescription suggests that I am still finding it useful, which is true, but the fact that I recently replaced my old VED for a new one suggests that I find it useful too, which is also true.

I would argue they both have their place in overcoming MS-related male sexual problems. For the past ten years pills and pumps have both worked well for me and the proof of that is that I still have them both in my bedside cupboard. I’d be hard pressed (no pun intended) to choose between the two.