Harvard Men's Health Watch

Acupuncture for ED?

When sildenafil (Viagra) was introduced in 1998, it revolutionized the treatment of male sexual dysfunction. For one thing, this important but intensely personal issue came out from under the covers, as men began to approach sexual woes as medical problems, not personal failings. For another, the most common problem got a new and more accurate name, as erectile dysfunction (ED) replaced impotence, a term that's derived from the Latin for "loss of power." Above all, sildenafil and its rivals, vardenafil (Levitra) and tadalafil (Cialis), provide effective and safe treatment for about 70% of men with ED.

It's encouraging progress, but since some 18 million American men have ED, there are about six million who won't respond to the ED pills. Men who use nitrate medications for heart disease cannot even try ED pills, and some men have adverse reactions or simply do not want to use medication for ED. Other modern treatments are available, but since ED is an age-old problem, some gents prefer to try old remedies instead of new therapies.

Acupuncture is certainly an old treatment. Some 2,500 years ago, Huang Di described its fundamental principles in his book, The Inner Classic of the Yellow Emperor. Now, research is asking if this ancient Asian technique can help men with ED.

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