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Penis Pumps

Use, effectiveness, and safety of penis pumps

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Updated June 27, 2009

Penis Pumps

What Are Penis Pumps?

Penis pumps are devices, often sold in sex shops, which are designed to give a man an erection. There are many different kinds of penis pumps, but basic penis pumps consist of a hollow plastic cylinder, a tube that runs from the cylinder to some pump mechanism (often it's a "bulb" but it may look more like a pistol grip).

There are other devices, called vacuum pumps or vacuum erection devices, which are available through a physician and are clinically tested devices used to treat erectile dysfunction. The basic premise is the same as penis pumps, but these devices tend to be better made, they may be safer, they come with constriction rings, and they usually cost over $200.

How Do Penis Pumps Work?

You place the tube over the penis and hold it tightly against the body. It is important that there is a good seal, and using a thick water based lubricant can help with that. Some men find that pubic hair gets in the way, for others this isn't a problem.

When the pump is on securely, whatever method of pumping is used (it may be manual or electric) and this draws air out of the cylinder, creating a vacuum. This has the effect of drawing blood into the penis, and the man will get an erection.

Do Penis Pumps Produce Results?

There is no question that if you use a penis pump as described above, in almost all cases you’ll get an erection. But there are many claims about penis pumps that are inaccurate.

For example, once the penis pump is removed, if the man is not aroused and/or if he has difficulty maintaining an erection, his erection will go away.

There is also no evidence that penis pumps will permanently enlarge your penis.

However, there is evidence that vacuum pumps, when used in conjunction with constriction rings (also called penis rings) are an effective way of dealing with erectile dysfunction for some men. These devices have fallen out of favor with the advent of Viagra, but they remain a relatively safe, and much less invasive way to get and maintain an erection. The major drawback to vacuum devices seems to be the inconvenience, and the impact they have on sex play.

Can You Use Penis Pumps on Other Body Parts?

Some people also use penis pumps on other parts of their body (nipples, clitoris, anywhere that is sensitive). Often these pumps are packaged as “clit pumps” or “nipple pumps” but they follow the same principle. The part of the body that is covered by the opening of the pump receives greater blood flow and this changes sensation, particularly when the pump is removed. Some people like the feeling of pressure during pumping, and describe the feeling after the pump is removed as a pleasant tingling sensation.

Can Penis Pumps be Harmful?

Some penis pumps can be harmful. If a penis pump can generate a strong vacuum and does not have a release valve, you can over pump and cause damage, in severe cases tissue damage. While many of the penis pumps available in sex shops are not that powerful, most good sex shops that sell penis pumps suggest that you should not use penis pumps if:
  • You bleed easily or have a blood clotting disorder
  • You are diabetic, or suffer from any peripheral vascular disease
  • You are taking anticoagulants, or any other blood-thinning medication.
Penis pumps may cause bruising or pain. If either occur you should stop using the pump and talk to your doctor.

There is more documentation about the potential harmful side effects of vacuum pumps in the clinical literature.

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