Erection cream: does it work?

Yael Cooperman, MD - Contributor Avatar

Reviewed by Yael Cooperman, MD, Ro, 

Written by Chimene Richa, MD 

Yael Cooperman, MD - Contributor Avatar

Reviewed by Yael Cooperman, MD, Ro, 

Written by Chimene Richa, MD 

last updated: May 17, 2022

3 min read

You’ve probably heard of Viagra and similar meds for treating erectile dysfunction (ED), but what about erection creams? Are these just gimmicks, or could they help you get your sex life back on track? Read on to learn more. 

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What is erectile dysfunction cream?  

Some people can’t or don’t want to take ED pills and are on the lookout for other treatment options. Enter the erectile dysfunction cream Vitaros. This cream contains the active ingredient alprostadil, a compound that increases blood flow to the penis, improving your erection. 

Alprostadil cream is used by inserting the cream into the opening of the penis (the meatus) before you have sex (Cuzin, 2016). 

This erectile dysfunction cream is not FDA-approved for use in the United States, but it is available in other countries, like Canada, Mexico, and parts of Europe and the Middle East (Mathias, 2018). You can get alprostadil in other forms in the US, including a penile injection or penile suppository (Jain, 2021). 

Is erection cream effective? 

Clinical trials suggest that alprostadil cream is an effective treatment for ED, with many noting improved erections within 30 minutes of application. It may be a potential option for people who cannot use traditional ED therapy due to side effects, drug interactions, or other reasons (Anaissie, 2016). 

This ED cream also seems to be well-tolerated. Side effects are rare and, if present, are typically mild and short-lived, lasting an hour or less. Because it is a topical cream, many of the common side effects are confined to the application site and include (Anaissie, 2016):

  • Genital pain

  • Burning

  • Redness

  • Tenderness

Less common systemic side effects include a slower heart rate, changes on an electrocardiogram (ECG), dizziness, and low blood pressure (hypotension). Lastly, your partner is also at risk of developing side effects like burning or irritation of the vagina or anus due to medication transfer (Anaissie, 2016).

Who shouldn’t use alprostadil cream? 

While erectile dysfunction cream is relatively well-tolerated, it is not for everyone. Anyone with an allergy to alprostadil should not use Vitaros. You should avoid this medication if you have certain medical conditions, including (Jain, 2021):

  • Sickle cell disease or trait

  • Multiple myeloma

  • Leukemia, a type of blood cancer

  • Peyronie’s disease of the penis

  • Polycythemia vera

  • Thrombocythemia

Effective treatments for ED

If you can’t get erectile dysfunction cream where you live, or if it doesn’t work well for you, there are many other effective treatment options. 

ED oral medications

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several pills to treat ED, including:

Like alprostadil, these drugs increase blood flow to the penis to improve your erection (Sooriyamoorthy, 2022).

Viagra Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.

Cialis Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.

Other ED medications

As mentioned above, alprostadil is also available as a penile injection or suppository (intraurethral pellets). Alternatively, if your healthcare provider suspects low testosterone is the cause of your ED, testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) may be an option (Sooriyamoorthy, 2022). 

Medical devices

Penis pumps (vacuum devices) help draw blood into the penis, producing an erection. 

Penis implants or protheses are another option. Some are malleable and can be physically moved into bent or erect positions. Others can be inflated whenever you want an erection.

Lifestyle changes

An important part of strong erections is keeping your blood vessels healthy since erections rely on blood flowing into the penis.  

Here are some things you can do to keep your blood vessels in good shape (Sooriyamoorthy, 2022):

ED can be a sign of underlying health conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease in some people. Working with your healthcare provider to appropriately manage these conditions may also improve your ED (Sooriyamoorthy, 2022).


If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

How we reviewed this article

Every article on Health Guide goes through rigorous fact-checking by our team of medical reviewers. Our reviewers are trained medical professionals who ensure each article contains the most up-to-date information, and that medical details have been correctly interpreted by the writer.

Current version

May 17, 2022

Written by

Chimene Richa, MD

Fact checked by

Yael Cooperman, MD

About the medical reviewer

Yael Cooperman is a physician and works as a Senior Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.