Written by the UPGUYS Editorial Team
Published on March 14, 2022
Did you know that erectile dysfunction will affect one in 10 men over their lifetime?
Many patients diagnosed with erectile dysfunction are surprised to learn that ED can be related to other medical conditions.
Specifically, there is a strong link between erectile dysfunction and heart disease.
Many patients wonder if the medication they take for either ED or their heart problems can affect each other.
This article will walk you through everything you need to know about erectile dysfunction and heart disease treatment and whether they can interact.
Maintaining an erection requires good blood flow to the penis. However, ED can occur when the body's circulatory system is not working properly.
Heart disease can contribute to various circulatory problems.
This means that ED can actually be an early sign of heart disease. It can even be a sign of heart disease that is going to occur in the future.
Doctors are able to diagnose this condition. Because ED can be one of the first signs and symptoms of coronary artery disease, men with ED often choose to be screened for coronary artery disease (CAD).
It's important to remember that not all cases of ED are related to future heart problems, however.
A wide variety of factors can cause ED. These include trauma, psychological factors, or social factors.
In the past, most scientific experts thought that ED and heart disease were related due to plaque buildup inside the arteries.
Now, researchers think that the reason the two conditions are linked is because of endothelial dysfunction. The endothelium is the inner lining of the blood vessels.
When this lining is not functioning properly, it cannot constrict or dilate to appropriately allow the right amount of blood to flow through. This can lead to heart problems and trouble maintaining an erection.
As mentioned above, heart disease can affect the body's circulatory system.
When the heart is not able to pump blood, it can't reach the penis to maintain an erection during intercourse.
Patients with heart failure or low ejection fraction may have trouble supporting erection.
Many patients who have had a heart attack wonder if they can return to sexual activity. Patients who have had a myocardial infarction should first try moderate aerobic activity. This helps to build up the body's conditioning for sexual activity slowly.
When you are able to safely maintain the level of a brisk walk, you can safely use ED medications with medications for your heart.
The major exception to this is if you are taking nitrates. Taking nitrates in addition to ED medication can cause an unsafe drop in blood pressure. You should always consult your physician before planning to take ED medications when you have heart problems.55
This article is written for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information provided in the articles cannot and should not replace advice from a healthcare professional. Talk to your healthcare provider about any physical or mental health concerns or the risks and benefits of any treatment or medication.
The short answer is that yes, heart medications can cause ED. Drugs are the cause of ED in nearly 1/4 of cases.
However, don't give up hope. There is usually always a way to treat your ED and heart disease simultaneously. You may not need to take that specific medication, or you could switch to another medication that does not cause ED.
Patients with heart failure often suffer from depression also. SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) treatment for mental health disorders causing ED is a common problem.
Patients taking these medications regularly report impotence or reduced libido. For many patients on these medications, the symptoms improve over time. It is also possible to add additional medication like bupropion to the regimen to improve sexual function.
One of the first-line treatments that doctors can prescribe for patients with ED and heart disease is a penis pump. These specialized devices are designed to increase blood flow to the penis before sexual activity.
Doctors may also prescribe additional oral medications or recommend supplements for treatment.
When you call your healthcare provider to talk about ED, let them know what other medications you take, chemical or herbal, vitamins or supplements.
While ED can be a sign of heart disease, it by no means determines that you will develop heart disease. If you are concerned about your risk, you should talk to your doctor about improving heart health and whether or not you should be screened.
ED is a consistent inability to maintain an erection during the length of sexual intercourse. As mentioned above, it affects approximately one in 10 men during their lifetimes, more often in older men.
For some men reading this, it's important to note that it is natural to have difficulty maintaining an erection from time to time. This can be because of stress, tiredness, or recent alcohol consumption. This phenomenon is not uncommon and is not necessarily a sign or precursor of ED.
ED is often caused by another physical problem or medical disorder.
Heart disease is one of the most common associations due to the endothelial dysfunction described above.
Atherosclerosis or clogged blood vessels may still play a major role in reducing blood flow during ED.
Patients who have diabetes or obesity often have difficulty with erection. This is because diabetes can affect small blood vessels and capillaries involved in providing blood to the extremities and genitals.
Patients who have neurologic disorders like Parkinson's Disease or multiple sclerosis may also develop ED. This is because of specific lesions in the nervous system that direct parasympathetic activity to the penis.
Smoking is widely known to be harmful to blood vessel function and can promote ED. Similarly, alcoholism and other forms of substance abuse can decrease overall health and promote ED.
It's also possible that trauma or surgery in the pelvic area or spinal cord can cause ED. Many patients who have received treatment for prostate disorders with surgery may be at risk for developing ED.
Importantly, not every case of ED is caused by a medical disorder. Many psychological disorders, including depression, anxiety, or general stress, can also promote ED.
Certain types of medications can predispose patients to ED. Specifically, antidepressants such as SSRIs are common offenders. Other antihistamines or medicines for hypertension or pain can cause a reduced ability to maintain an erection.
Heart disease is a broad umbrella term that describes hundreds of disorders seen by cardiologists. However, when most people talk about heart disease, they usually talk about coronary artery disease or heart failure. These are some of the most common forms of illness in the heart.
Coronary artery disease is a problem when there is reduced blood flow to the heart due to plaque buildup in the arteries. This can put patients at risk for a heart attack.
Heart failure occurs when patients are unable to pump blood out to the rest of the body. This can have a direct effect on erections.
If you have concerns about either type of heart disease or another problem, you should seek a consultation with your physician right away.
There is a strong link between erectile dysfunction and heart disease. Patients who have both problems should see their physician to optimize treatment. In most cases, there is a way to address both problems safely with medication or other treatments.