A well-known and expected side effect of prostate cancer treatment is erectile dysfunction. Many men accept this reality and know sex after prostate cancer will involve setting expectations and being patient. Still, a question we often hear at Rejoyn Medical is how long does erectile dysfunction last after prostate surgery, and when can I return to a healthy, active sex life? Here we help set expectations and answer questions surrounding this critical recovery time.
First, why does ED happen?
Erections happen when the brain sends a message to the blood vessels in the penis telling them to widen. This makes more blood flood flow to the penis, making the penis bigger and harder. During surgery to address the prostate, it is easy to impact and weaken the nerves, blood vessels and muscles that are located near the prostate gland and that control both your erections and your bladder. Because of this, incontinence, erectile dysfunction, or both often result.
How long does erectile dysfunction last after prostate surgery?
How long men experience ED after prostate surgery depends on many factors, including how strong their erections were before surgery, and the degree to which nerves, blood vessels and muscles surrounding the prostate gland were impacted. Sources say downtime could be less than or longer than a month.
Other experts cite that most patients regain full physical capacity within several weeks—95% of patients achieve urinary continence within a few months and most patients regain erectile control within two years. Recovery can be prolonged if patients have other preexisting factors that can contribute to erectile dysfunction, such as older age, health issues such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes, lifestyle factors such as smoking, excessive drinking, and physical inactivity. Also, erectile function recovery tends to lag behind functional recovery in other areas. For example, men may be ready to return to normal activities and regain continence before they’re able to return to sexual activity.
Another key point to keep in mind as you go through the recovery process is that while sex can happen again, it may feel different. Because the prostate gland is what makes semen, you will no longer release semen when you orgasm. What you’ll experience is what’s known as “dry orgasms.”
What can I do?
If the question of “How long does erectile dysfunction last after surgery?” is creating a source of stress, the first thing to do is relax and be patient. Your body has undergone a traumatic experience and the stress of diagnosis and treatment only exasperates the situation. Be kind to yourself and rethink your expectations. You are still a man and you are still virile and strong.
When you are ready to pursue options, you can start exploring solutions; which can include medications such as Viagra, penis surgery, or a hands-on, non-medical treatment such as vacuum therapy.
Vacuum therapy or a penis pump can be used to create erections to start having sex again. Moreover, it can be used as part of the rehabilitation process to decrease the recovery time. Using the vacuum suction generated by the pump, you can start to rehabilitate the penis by increasing circulation and promoting penile healing. It can help you re-familiarize yourself with the feeling of getting an erection and let you experiment with how arousal, erections, and orgasms feel in this new world. More information about penis pumps is outlined in our Comprehensive Guide to Sex After Prostate Removal.
How long does erectile dysfunction last after prostate surgery varies, but most men ultimately find their way back to sex. Talk to your doctor about your surgery and its effect on the surrounding areas of your prostate. Then ask about next steps. You can do this!