High Blood Pressure Drugs and ED: What You Should Know
Aging. It’s a process we can’t stop, but does it have to remind us all the time? Getting older can often feel like the world is playing a series of unkind jokes on us.
For instance, many men develop high blood pressure, or hypertension, as they pass into middle age and beyond. This is also the same age when many men start experiencing erectile dysfunction (ED).
Giddy experts Dr. Bob Harding and Dr. Edwin Morales discuss aging and ED in the ED Guide video series. Click here to watch the video.
To top it off, those two conditions are related: One study showed that about 30 percent of men with hypertension also reported suffering from ED. Other studies found that up to 49 percent of men ages 40 to 75 with hypertension also experienced erectile dysfunction.
And here’s where nature’s terrible sense of humor really kicks in: Some drugs that treat high blood pressure can actually cause ED, or at least exacerbate it. The good news, though, is there are other high blood pressure drugs that are neutral or may actually improve erection quality for men with erectile dysfunction.
Before we discuss medications, let’s talk about why blood pressure is so important to getting and maintaining a quality erection.
High blood pressure & ED: the link
The most basic connection between blood pressure and ED is fairly obvious: Blood flowing into the penis is what causes it to become erect—the better the blood flow, the stronger the erection.
When men get sexually aroused, smooth muscles relax in the two chambers known as the corpus cavernosa, where small arteries dilate and fill with blood. The pressure of the blood flow then presses on veins that normally allow blood to flow back out, trapping the blood temporarily.
However, if you have high blood pressure, the arteries that carry blood into the penis narrow and become less flexible, reducing that initial blood flow. Hypertension also causes that smooth muscle to lose its ability to relax and allow blood to flow into the corpus cavernosa in the first place.
Blood pressure meds that cause ED
Chronic high blood pressure is a dangerous condition when left untreated. It can cause a stroke, aneurysm, coronary artery disease, kidney damage, retinal damage and much more—none of it good—so it’s crucial to take the medication your doctor prescribes.
However, extensive studies have managed to separate some hypertension drugs that are more likely to cause or worsen ED. Two broad classes of medication that fall into this category are diuretics and beta-blockers.
Beta-blockers interact with the same components of the nervous system that are responsible for causing erections. However, they also block blood flow to the penis, often resulting in erection difficulty.
Diuretics, or water pills, are another class of hypertension drug that has been linked to erection difficulties, because they reduce the strength of the blood flow to your penis.
Blood pressure meds that don’t cause ED
Several classes of high blood pressure drugs, including ACE inhibitors and calcium channel blockers, aren’t or aren’t known to be linked to erectile dysfunction. ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors widen blood vessels and increase blood flow. Less than 1 percent of men report ED in connection with them. Calcium channel blockers also are rarely linked to erectile dysfunction.
Blood pressure drugs that can improve ED
OK, so some blood pressure medications don’t cause or worsen ED. What about blood pressure meds that actually improve ED? Do those exist?
Alpha-blockers are one such class of medication. To cite just one example, 100 percent of men in one small study reported improvement with their erectile dysfunction when they took an alpha-blocker such as Cardura.
ARBs (angiotensin II receptor blockers) are another class of drug shown to help with erectile dysfunction and blood pressure. Brands such as Losartan fall into this class and reportedly have improved men’s ED issues. A study of another ARB, brand-named Cozaar, found that after 12 weeks, men reporting problems with ED dropped from 75 percent to 12 percent. You don’t take any of these medications specifically to treat ED, but you may get a beneficial side effect.
If it’s impossible, or inadvisable, to switch off of these drugs that are causing your erectile dysfunction, it may be worthwhile finding solutions for your ED that avoid increasing your medication regimen. A wearable ED device like Eddie by Giddy® allows men to continue their current medications and implement a treatment that doesn’t come with the negative side effects from ED pills. An FDA-registered Class II medical device, Eddie is designed to treat erectile dysfunction and improve male sexual performance. Its specific shape optimizes blood flow, because it puts pressure on the veins of the penis but not the arteries.
While plenty of correlations between ED and high blood pressure drugs exist, being diagnosed with hypertension isn’t the end of the world—or your sex life. Strategize with your doctor to see which of the alternative hypertension drug classes best suit your needs. And, if your first choice isn’t working, try, try again.