Achieving an erection requires the coordination and proper functioning of several organs. Your brain should be sending the right signals to your penis. Your nerves should be able to receive those signals properly. Your blood vessels should be healthy. You should have sufficient testosterone. And you should have the right balance of chemicals in your body.
When any of these elements are not working properly, such as when there’s a chemical imbalance in your brain, it could interfere with your body’s ability to achieve and maintain erections. Unfortunately, there are times when medications that you need to take for other conditions can mess up your erectile function.
#1 Chemotherapy Drugs
The importance of chemotherapy drugs to cancer patients is undeniable. However, when one of the side effects is something as severe and psychologically impacting as erectile dysfunction, healthcare providers should have an in-depth discussion with the patient to set proper expectations and provide options. Male cancer patients should be informed that chemotherapy drugs often cause erectile dysfunction, and in some cases, permanent infertility.
#2 Antihypertensive Drugs
Male hypertensive patients often also exhibit erectile dysfunction. This is because chronic blood pressure elevation causes functional as well as structural changes in the arteries of the penis, reducing the ability of the penile arteries to deliver sufficient penile blood flow to support an erection.
Unfortunately, certain antihypertensive medications contribute to the prevalence of erectile dysfunction in patients suffering from high blood pressure. Not all antihypertensive drugs have negative effects on erectile function. This adverse side effect is associated with older-generation antihypertensive medications.
Diuretics, central acting, and beta-blocker medications are the ones linked to erectile dysfunction. For instance, chlorthalidone, a diuretic drug, is associated with incidences of erectile dysfunction. Newer-generation antihypertensive drugs, however, are considered to have either neutral or beneficial effects on sexual function.
#3 Antiepileptic Drugs
Epileptic men have higher risks of developing erectile dysfunction. Reduced libido and impaired sexual performance are often reported by adult male epileptic patients. Previous studies have also found that those who had temporal lobe epilepsy were more likely to develop hypogonadism and sexual abnormalities as compared to those who had primary generalized epilepsy.
To add to the problem, antiepileptic medications affect sex hormones concentrations and the regulatory mechanisms of endocrine glands. This adds to the sexual dysfunction issues epileptic patients encounter.
You may not know it but that medicine you’re taking for your allergies may actually be damaging your erectile functions. Antihistamines are known to reduce the volume of blood flowing to the penis. And when there’s not enough penile blood flow, erections won’t happen.
More than twenty years ago, researchers already found out that histamine plays a role in human erectile processes. In a 1995 study, scientists tried injecting 30 micrograms of histamine into the penis of male patients.
Thirteen percent of the men achieved full erections after the injection while the rest had partial erections. When they doubled the dose, 26% of the male patients achieved erections. Years later, the beneficial effects of histamine on human penile erections were validated in other studies.
Antihistamine medications, however, prevent the actions of histamine. Antihistamines are definitely beneficial when you’re suffering from allergies, but they do cause temporary erectile dysfunction.
#5 Anti-Parkinson’s Disease Medications
The brain plays an important part in proper sexual functioning and since Parkinson’s disease causes degenerative damage to the brain, patients with Parkinson’s consequently suffer sexual dysfunction.
Female Parkinson’s disease patients often suffer from reduced libido and decreased sexual satisfaction. In men, sexual dysfunction occurs as erectile dysfunction, ejaculatory disorders, and sexual dissatisfaction.
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in the regulation of erections. Anticholinergic medications interfere with the actions of acetylcholine and thus prevent erections.
Some of the common medications for Parkinson’s disease are classified as anticholinergic drugs and these include benztropine and trihexyphenidyl. Both block acetylcholine to decrease muscle stiffness and prevent muscle spasms in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
#6 Prostate Cancer Medications
Testosterone aids in the spread of prostate cancer cells. Thus, many prostate cancer medications block testosterone to slow down the spread and growth of the cancerous cells. Flutamide is one of the commonly prescribed prostate cancer medications that block testosterone. Bicalutamide and nilutamide are also used as androgen blockers.
Androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) is a common form of treatment for prostate cancer patients. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the disease and the nature of the medications used to treat the condition, ADT almost always results in erectile dysfunction.
For one, androgen deprivation therapy directly affects the smooth muscle structures in the penis, thereby decreasing penile erection. Moreover, androgens like testosterone help protect the neurological structures in the penis. When a prostate cancer patient is treated with anti-androgens, they lose this protection.
#7 Antidepressant Medications
Antidepressant medications usually work by tweaking the balance of chemicals and neurotransmitters in the brain. For instance, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) work on serotonin which is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood. Serotonin is also involved in the regulation of sexual desire as well as in the performance of sexual functions.
SSRIs basically stop serotonin from being deactivated or reabsorbed into the body. Thus, serotonin levels remain high, which is supposed to help improve the mood of depressed people but has the unfortunate effect of inhibiting sexual activity.
Of the various SSRIs available today, paroxetine is considered as the one most associated with erectile dysfunction. Other types of SSRIs such as sertraline and fluoxetine are also associated with sexual dysfunction.
For patients suffering from depression who don’t want their erectile functions to be affected, specialists recommend bupropion, an antidepressant medication that works through a different mechanism.
Other medications that also affect sexual function include antipsychotic drugs and anti-mania medications. Prevalence of erectile dysfunction in patients taking antipsychotic medications is as high as 40% or more.
Antipsychotic drugs work interfere with the functions of dopamine, histamine, and acetylcholine, which are all important for proper erectile function. Medications that block the receptors for dopamine decreases libido and hinders with a man’s capacity for arousal and orgasm.