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Vacuum Erection Device: How Penile Vacuum Therapy Works

Kristin Hall, FNP

Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Published 03/19/2021

Updated 03/20/2021

When you’re dealing with sexual problems, any solution is worth exploring. After all, sexual health is an important part of life and overall health. 

But not all solutions are right for all men. When it comes to vacuum devices, there are some things you should know. 

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What Is a Vacuum Erection Device? 

The vacuum erection device, or VED, has been around since the late 19th century, when doctor John King stated “when there is impotence with a diminution of the size of the male organ, the glass exhauster should be applied to the part.” The “glass exhauster,” in this case, was the vacuum device, and “the part,” the penis. In other words, the science for VEDs is not new.

Now, there are many vacuum devices available for men to use, but how do they work? 

The premise of a VED is that a vacuum creates a negative pressure around the penis, speeding blood flow into the organ and creating an erection. As many as 90% of men who use a VED will achieve a usable erection “with adequate practice,” according to research published in the journal Nature. So, there’s a bit of a learning curve.

Many of these devices can be purchased online, but your healthcare provider can also talk with you about available options.

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How Do Vacuum Erectile Devices Work?

Generally, a VED is made up of a plastic tube and an electric or hand-operated pumping mechanism, according to an article published in the journal, Reviews in Urology. You apply a lubricant, insert your penis into the tube and the vacuum removes air from inside. This causes blood to rush into the penis, creating an erection in about five minutes. 

A band is placed around the base of the penis (think of a rubber band) to help keep the penis engorged and the blood flow within. This band can be left on for up to 30 minutes.

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Vacuum Erection Device vs. Vacuum Constriction Device

You’ll often hear VED (vacuum erection device) and VCD (vacuum constriction device) used interchangeably, and we’re doing so in this article. But they are slightly different. A VED does not involve positioning a band at the base of the penis, where the VCD does.

VEDs with no constriction device may be more commonly used in post-surgical rehabilitation, where it’s believed the increased blood flow can speed healing and reduce side effects, according to the same article published in Reviews in Urology.

Risks of Using a Penile Vacuum Pump

Because VEDs are not prescription devices, they haven’t undergone the rigorous clinical trials that other ED treatments — such as PDE5 inhibitors — have. That said, research has indicated some risks or side effects of using the devices. 

Ischemia, or reduced blood flow, can occur after 30 minutes of applying the ring, which is why it’s not recommended you keep it on any longer than that. If an erection is desired for a longer period, you can remove the ring and re-apply the vacuum to begin again.

Other side effects include numbness or loss of feeling, coldness in the penis, pain and bruising. You can also pinch your scrotum in the device. Rarely, leg spasms and bleeding can occur.

It seems the largest risk associated with VEDs is simple dissatisfaction. Depending on your source, anywhere between 3 and 7 men out of 10 say they’re satisfied with it. And this makes sense -- the device can be cumbersome, and it can be humiliating to have to use it in the presence of a partner.

How Vacuum Erection Devices Measure Up to Other ED Treatment Options

The first-line treatment for erectile dysfunction is medication. PDE-5 inhibitors such as Tadalafil (Cialis) and Sildenafil (active ingredient in Viagra, or generic Viagra) are widely accepted as effective methods of treatment, with clinical research to back that effectiveness and safety.

Further, your partner doesn’t have to even know you’re being treated for erectile dysfunction, eliminating the potential discomfort of using a mechanical device, like a Giddy ED device. We have Eddie by Giddy reviews in our blog.

That said, not everyone wants to take medication. For them, a VED might be a viable alternative. Surgery is another option for some cases of erectile dysfunction.

Talking with your healthcare provider will help you determine which course of treatment is the right one for you. 

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Vacuum Erectile Devices: Management of Erectile Dysfunction

VEDs are not new technology -- they’ve been around in one form or another for over 100 years, and are effective at restoring an erection in many men. Vacuum devices work by creating negative pressure to pull blood into the penis, and a band is typically placed around the base of the penis to maintain that engorgement.

VEDs are just one option though. Medications are another. If you’re dealing with erectile dysfunction, the best place to look for answers to your treatment questions is from a medical professional.

4 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Yuan, J., et. al. (2010, April) Vacuum therapy in erectile dysfunction -- science and clinical evidence. Nature International Journal of Impotence Research. 22: 211-219. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/ijir20104
  2. Hoyland, K., et. al. (2013) The use of vacuum erection devices in erectile dysfunction after radical prostatectomy. Reviews in Urology. 15(2): 67-71. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3784970/
  3. University of Michigan (2020, Feb.) Vacuum devices for erection problems. Michigan Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hw111500
  4. Rew, K., et. al. (2016, Nov.) Erectile dysfunction. American Family Physician. 94(10): 820-827. Retrieved from https://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0101/p95.html
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Kristin Hall, FNP

Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership. 

She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH

Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare. 

Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.

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