Whether you’re taking medication to treat blood pressure, pain, depression, inflammation or another condition, various side effects may occur, one of which is erectile dysfunction (ED).
ED often occurs in older men, as they are more likely to be taking medication, but it can affect younger men as well. According to the Harvard Special Health Report it is estimated that 25% of all erectile dysfunction cases in the US are a result of the side effects of medication. Antidepressants and blood pressure medications are the most common culprits in this regard. Many men who suffer from medication-induced ED, either stop taking their medication altogether, or learn to live with ED.
Working out a solution can feel like a daunting task. Luckily, there are several options available to help fix this problem and maintain both a healthy sex life and treatment for your condition.
What Causes Medication-Induced Erectile Dysfunction?
Erections are the result of a complicated process involving nerve impulses, chemical signals and blood flow. Several medications can affect one or more of these processes, which in turn can lead to ED. Additionally, the effect of medications on hormonal regulation and general mood can lead to a decreased libido, further contributing to ED.
Step 1: Do You Still Require Your Medication?
Once prescribed, many patients will take their medication indefinitely, although it may no longer be necessary. When prescribed a long-term medication, follow up with your doctor regularly to determine if you may need a dose adjustment, a substitution or if you can discontinue the medication altogether.
Step 2: Find An Alternative Medicine
Talk to your doctor. There may be an alternative medication which can treat your condition without causing ED. Blood pressure medications including diuretics (water pills) like Hydrochlorothiazide and beta-blockers like Atenolol are the most common medications leading to ED. Thankfully, there are several high blood medications that are less likely to cause ED as a side effect. These include:
- ACE Inhibitors: Ed occurs in less than 1% of patients taking ACE inhibitors, which include Capoten, Lotensin, Prinivil, and Zestril
- Calcium channel blockers: These include Amlodipine, Diltiazem and Verapamil, which rarely cause ED.
- Alpha blockers: Alpha blockers will rarely cause ED. In fact, one study found that a number of men taking the alpha blocker Cardura experienced improvement in their erectile function.
- ARB’s: ARB’s such as Losartan can cause ED, however, for some people, sexual function improves when taking these medications.
Bottom line: If you are being treated for high blood pressure and are experiencing ED as a side effect, your doctor may be able to prescribe an alternative medication to remedy this issue.
Step 3: Consider Viagra Or Other Oral Medications
There are a myriad of oral medications used to treat ED, including Viagra, Levitra, Staxyn, Cialis and Stendra. For most men, these medications are safe and effective. In general, oral medications for erectile dysfunction work by enhancing the effect of a biochemical known as nitric oxide. Release of Nitric oxide indirectly leads to relaxation of smooth muscle in the penis. This in turn leads to enhanced blood flow, which makes it easier to achieve and maintain an erection.
Which oral medication is right for you?
Consult your doctor to determine which medication may be best for you. Each medication has minor differences in chemical makeup. Your doctor will be able to take into account your underlying medical conditions, and medications you might be taking, when selecting the appropriate ED medication.
The most common medications used to treat ED are:
- Viagra (sildenafil): Begins to work in 30-60 minutes. It is most effective taken one hour before sex, on an empty stomach, and can last 4 to 5 hours.
- Levitra, Staxyn, (vardenafil): Should be taken with or without food, one hour before sex. The medication dissolves on your tongue and can last 4 to 5 hours. Eating a meal high in fat prior to taking this medication can reduce its effectiveness. Avoid eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice while taking this medication as it can increase the likelihood of side effects.
- Cialis (tadalafil): Should be taken with or without food at least 30 minutes before sexual activity. It remains effective for up to 36 hours. Cialis can also be taken as a daily medication at lower dosages. It may then be suitable for individuals who are sexually active nearly every day, or for those who cannot realistically time their sexual encounters.
- Stendra (avanafil): Stendra is a newer formulation which has generally fewer side effects and rapid onset. It can be taken 15 to 30 minutes before sex and lasts up to 6 hours.
Remember, before taking any medication for ED, you should always get your doctor’s approval.
- Harvard Health Publishing (website), https://www.health.harvard.edu/mens-health/some-drugs-may-cause-your-erectile-dysfunction, (accessed 25th August 2019).
- Get Roman (website), https://www.getroman.com/romanhood/medically-induced-erectile-dysfunction/, (accessed 24th August 2019).
- WebMD (website), https://www.webmd.com/erectile-dysfunction/guide/blood-pressure-medication-and-ed#1 (accessed 24th August 2019).
- Viagra (website), https://www.viagra.com/learning/how-does-viagra-work (accessed 25th August 2019).
- WebMD (website), https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-155644/staxyn-oral/details, (accessed 25th August 2019).
- Hims (website), https://www.forhims.com/blog/stendra-101-how-it-works-side-effects-more, (accessed 25th August 2019).
- Mayo Clinic Staff, Mayo Clinic (website), https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/erectile-dysfunction/in-depth/erectile-dysfunction/ART-20047821 (accessed 24th August 2019).