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What medications can cause erectile dysfunction?

Dr. Jack Merendino, MD
Endocrinologist

Medications commonly contribute to erectile dysfunction (ED). By far the most common are various blood pressure medications, including clonidine (brand name Catapres) and the many beta-blocker drugs, among others. Diuretics, which are often used in the treatment of hypertension, may also worsen ED. You might be reading this and saying, "Great! High blood pressure causes ED and the medicines used to treat high blood pressure cause ED. What am I supposed to do?" You can't let high blood pressure go untreated, because it will worsen your vascular disease overall, and increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. The goal is to find the medicines that are the least likely to worsen ED. Fortunately, ACEs and ARBs have a fairly low risk of causing ED.

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Without pharmaceuticals, we'd die a lot sooner, feel a lot worse and spend more time in hospitals than in our homes. But drugs aren't perfect. And many classes of drugs—especially beta-blockers and the SSRI class of antidepressants—list erectile dysfunction as one of the major side effects. (How's that for a trade-off? Take a drug to improve your mood, but risk cutting off your sexual interest and capabilities at the same time.)

If you or your partner experience erectile dysfunction while taking a drug, tell your doctor so she can switch you to another class that may not have as powerful an effect. For example, switching from an SSRI to Wellbutrin (bupropion) seems to help alleviate arousal and interest issues that are common in people who take SSRIs. So does switching from a beta-blocker for high blood pressure to an angiotensin receptor blocker such as losartan or valsartan.

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Drugs frequently used to treat high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and peptic ulcers can all be factors. Tell your provider about all the medications you are using—even over-the-counter remedies.

If you have signs of trouble and suspect that it may be related to a new medication you are using, tell your provider. There may be other medicines you can use. But don’t stop taking the medicine. Smoking and alcohol consumption can also contribute to erection problems.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.