A common kidney stone treatment may actually help improve erectile dysfunction (ED) — though the treatment is not yet approved in the United States.
That treatment, shockwave therapy, has been used since the 1980s to treat kidney stones, Dr. Kevin Campbell, a physician with The Urology Group in Cincinnati, told Fox News. For the procedure, a machine generates a pressure wave strong enough to break or fragment a kidney stone, he explained.
A modified, low-intensity version of shockwave therapy has also been shown, in some trials, to help with ED — but doctors aren’t entirely sure how it works yet.
They have some ideas: Campbell explained that, during a normal erection, the penis fills with blood. However, illnesses like diabetes or other blood vessel diseases can often lead to a buildup of scar tissue that decreases blood supply to the area. However, shockwave therapy may help increase the flow of blood to the penis, possibly by promoting the growth of stem cells, which can proliferate into different types of cells such as blood vessels, Campbell said.
“It’s certainly promising,” Campbell said of the treatment, but noted that before he would suggest it to patients, he would want answers to a number of questions — including how shockwave therapy works and the best way to administer the shocks of pressure. (So far, there’s no consensus on how many treatments should be administered, how high the intensity level of the shocks should be, and the exact placement required for the shocks.)
One crucial, potential benefit of shockwave therapy? Unlike oral medications such as Viagra, Campbell explained, shockwave therapy could actually treat the cause of the problem — not just its symptoms.
If eventually approved, the treatment could help the 30 million American men the National Institutes of Health estimates suffer from ED. Now, that’s something to get excited about.