For those with prostate cancer, a prostatectomy is a common surgical procedure for treatment. Doctors will tell you that you can expect some nerve damage as a result of a prostatectomy. However, not all patients are prepared for a very common and debilitating side effect of nerve damage in this area: Erectile dysfunction (ED).
Even though a prostatectomy may cause ED, that doesn't need to mean the patient has erectile dysfunction forever. In fact, studies show that at least 50% of men who undergo a prostatectomy will recover full erectile functions.
If you're experiencing ED after prostatectomy, learn more about what the erectile recovery process will look like and how to recover below.
WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER A PROSTATECTOMY?
Erectile dysfunction should be expected for everyone after prostatectomy. Even during a nerve-sparing prostatectomy, there will be some damage to nerve tissue. The nerve tissue will need time to recover.
A doctor may advise undergoing penile rehabilitation to ensure the best possible recovery. This can help avoid any irreversible structural changes to the affected nerves.
Even with penile rehabilitation, ED after prostatectomy may continue 1-2 years after the surgery. The likelihood of recovering prior erectile function will depend on several factors.
FACTORS THAT AFFECT ED AFTER A PROSTATECTOMY
Of course, the patient's level of erectile function before the surgery will determine a lot about recovery. These problems are most likely to continue after surgery for those who already had some problems with erectile dysfunction.
Some factors that are dependent on the individual's health, such as:
For example, an older man is more likely to experience erectile dysfunction due to age in addition to the surgery.
Overall, the healthier you are before the surgery, the more likely you will avoid long-term ED after prostatectomy.
HOW TO MANAGE ED AFTER PROSTATECTOMY
As erectile dysfunction is expected after surgery, at least for some amount of time, it's important to know how to manage ED after prostatectomy.
Thankfully, there are a variety of options available to men after surgery. If experiencing erectile dysfunction, we recommend these different methods for achieving and maintaining an erection.
There are several medications for ED on the market. The medications work by relaxing the muscles, which means the blood will flow more quickly and efficiently. Flowing blood to the penis is essential to achieve and maintain an erection.
Medications can be a reliable way to help an erection as they begin working in about an hour and can last for a long time. Oral medications have been shown to help the majority of men with ED after prostatectomy. A doctor will be able to help determine if this is the right choice for treating ED.
For those who cannot take oral medications for their erectile dysfunction, ED injections are a good alternative. These can be used at home. They work faster than oral medications but also wear off more quickly.
Rather than turning to medications, mechanical devices are a non-invasive way of treating ED. A vacuum erection device can help the blood flow to the penis. By then sliding on a constriction ring, the blood stays in the penis, maintaining the erection.
One surgical option for impotence that is quite effective is using implants. Semirigid penile implants work by surgical inserting a tube into the penis. When the man wants an erection, he can activate the tubes, becoming rigid and creating an erection.
THE CONCERN ABOUT ED AFTER A PROSTATECTOMY
For those who are facing prostate cancer, getting healthy is a top priority. But for many, finding a treatment option that doesn't jeopardize their erectile function is also important. When speaking to a doctor about prostate cancer treatment, it's important to voice concerns about ED. Particularly for men who currently do not have an ED history, maintaining erectile functions after treatment is possible.
Researchers continue working to find treatment options for prostate cancer that do not lead to long-term erectile dysfunction. By speaking with a doctor, men can find the treatment option that will remove the risk of cancer while not ensuring long-term ED. This may mean nerve-sparing prostatectomy or radiation therapy.
ED AFTER A PROSTATECTOMY - THE BOTTOM LINE
If you have recently undergone a prostatectomy, understand that some erectile dysfunction is completely normal. Your body is healing. After 1-2 years, you will have a better idea of your long-term outlook.
However, even if you have ED after prostatectomy, know that it's not the end of the road. There are several treatment options, whether that's medications, surgery, or mechanical devices. You can achieve and maintain erections even after surgery by finding the treatment that's right for you.
You can read more information in this study from the National Library of Medicine.