How venous leak affects erectile dysfunction (ED)

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Venous leak is a factor in more than half of all cases of ED, yet the condition is relatively unknown. This article examines the symptoms and causes of venous leak, and explores some of the most effective treatment options.

What is venous leak?

To understand how venous leak causes ED, we need to look at the basic mechanics of an erection. 

To achieve and maintain an erection, the tissues of the penis must fill with blood, causing it to become bigger, firmer, and more erect. First, the arteries of the penis must relax to allow the blood to flow in. Then, the veins of the penis must constrict so that the inflow of blood becomes trapped in the penis. 

If the veins do not constrict, the blood that flows into the penis through the arteries will leak out again, causing the penis to soften. This condition is called venous leak. 

Even a low to moderate case of venous leak can have an impact on the ability to maintain an erection. In fact, studies suggest that even if vein function decreases by as little as 15% it can cause ED. 

What are the symptoms of venous leak?

Venous leak is not painful or uncomfortable, so the most obvious symptom of this condition is ED.

While ED can be caused by many factors, when it is caused by venous leak, it can result in a recognizable pattern. Because the blood can flow into the penis normally through the arteries, someone with venous leak can often achieve an erection. However, they may not be able to maintain it for long enough to have sex, because while the arteries can perform normally and deliver blood to the penis, venous leak allows the blood to flow out too rapidly, resulting in the loss of the erection.

In some cases, venous leak can prevent someone from achieving a full erection in the first place because the blood outflow is so rapid that it outpaces the inflow.

What are the causes of venous leak?

Venous leak is caused by veins that fail to constrict and trap blood in the penis. The failure of the veins to perform normally can be caused by a number of underlying conditions:

Vascular disease — Vascular disease includes any condition of the circulatory system, which is the network of veins and arteries that circulate blood to and from the heart. While arterial disease can cause ED by reducing the flow of blood into the penis, vascular disease can cause ED through a venous leak.  

Diabetes — Fluctuations in blood sugar caused by diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the penis which, in turn, can lead to venous leak.

Peyronie's disease — The plaque or scar tissue caused by Peyronie's disease can prevent the veins from closing properly, which results in the blood leaking out of the penis. 

How many men are affected by venous leak?

Arterial disease (also known as artery disease) has long been considered a significant cause of ED. When ED is caused by arterial disease, the arteries that carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to other parts of the body become impaired. As a result, not enough blood reaches these body parts. When the condition affects the penis, it can result in an inability to achieve an erection.

However, venous leak may actually be an even more common cause of ED than arterial disease. WebMD reports that 50-70% of cases of ED are caused by venous leak, and in a study published in the International Journal of Impotence, researchers concluded that venous leak, rather than arterial disease, was the cause of ED in the majority of cases among younger men (aged 50 and under).

In other words, managing blood outflow is as important as ensuring healthy blood inflow when treating ED.

What are the treatments for venous leak?

There are a number of treatments for venous leak:

Vacuum pumps, also known as ED pumps, create a vacuum that encourages the inflow of blood to the penis to create an erection. Pumps are often sold with penis rings that constrict the base of the penis and physically trap the blood that has been collected through the pumping action. 

Oral and suppository ED medications are often a prescribed treatment for venous leak. When oral treatment in pill form is unsuccessful, medication may be administered with a medicated urethral system for erection (MUSE), which places the medication directly into the urethra.

Penile injections may be prescribed for cases of venous leak where oral or suppository ED medications do not deliver the desired effect. While injections can be perceived as unpleasant and painful, research suggests that they are effective.

ED surgery and penile implants may be suggested for cases of venous leak that cannot be treated by less invasive means such as pumps, medications, or wearable devices. This treatment surgically inserts an inflatable device into the penis and scrotum that enables the wearer to create an erection artificially.

ED wearables are a newer form of treatment for venous leak that improve on regular penis rings or ED rings. Because of the way they are designed, they are significantly more effective in preventing blood outflow and enabling people with venous leakage to maintain a strong erection.  

Learn more about treatments for ED and venous leak here

How does Xialla treat venous leak?

Xialla is an ED wearable with a patented design that specifically targets venous leak. While traditional ED rings, such as those sold with vacuum pumps, reduce blood outflow by compressing the dorsal veins, this type of treatment tends to underperform because the ring moves during sexual activity. With each movement, a little more blood is able to leak out of the penis.

Xialla improves on traditional rings with an anchored design that prevents movement during sex. The ring, which is placed at the base of the penis, is attached to a thin, flexible strap that anchors to the body. By keeping the ring immobilized, Xialla ensures that more blood stays in the penis to maximize the strength and duration of the erection.

Learn more about how Xialla treats venous leak.

Please note that the information provided in this article for general informational purposes only. Any information provided here is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Before beginning any type of treatment regimen you should always seek the advice of your licensed healthcare professional. Xialla Inc. are not liable for any direct or indirect claim, loss or damage resulting from use of the information in this message. Any application of the information provided in this message is at the reader's sole discretion and responsibility.
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