Low blood pressure does not typically cause erectile dysfunction (ED). However, some medications to treat ED may cause a drop in blood pressure in some people.
ED occurs when someone cannot get or maintain an erection. Factors, such as anxiety, stress, or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, may cause temporary ED. However, if ED happens regularly, a medical or mental health condition may be the cause.
This article examines whether there is a link between low blood pressure and ED. We also discuss the potential causes of ED and how to treat the condition.
Low blood pressure occurs when the pressure of circulating blood in a person’s body is lower than typical levels. While low blood pressure does not usually cause ED, combining ED drugs with other medications may result in low blood pressure.
ED drugs, such as sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), and vardenafil (Levitra), relax blood vessels to increase blood flow.
However, people should not take these drugs if they also use nitrate medications for chest pain or heart problems. These medications include isosorbide dinitrate (Isordil), isosorbide mononitrate (Imdur), and nitroglycerin (Nitrostat).
Nitrate medications and ED drugs
People can also discuss their treatment with a doctor if they take alpha-blockers for prostate enlargement. Combining alpha-blockers and ED medicines may also cause a
Blood pressure measures the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries.
The body has complex mechanisms that help regulate blood pressure. These systems assist in increasing or decreasing heart rate, constricting or dilating blood vessels, or signaling the kidneys to release hormones.
When someone has high blood pressure, the force of the blood pushing against the artery walls is consistently too high, meaning that the heart has to work harder to pump blood.
Over time, high blood pressure can damage the lining of blood vessels and cause hardening and narrowing of the arteries, which doctors call atherosclerosis. This condition raises the risk of stroke and heart attack and limits blood flow to the penis. This increases the likelihood of someone having difficulty getting and maintaining erections.
ED is an early sign of blood vessel damage. A 2020 study found men with untreated high blood pressure to be twice as likely to have reduced penile blood flow than those with typical blood pressure.
Some medications doctors prescribe to treat high blood pressure may also affect sexual desire and function.
For example, diuretics may interfere with a person’s ability to achieve an erection because they reduce forceful blood flow to the penis. Beta-blockers may also play a role in ED. They block specific receptors in the nervous system responsible for causing an erection.
As such, if a person taking these medications notices a negative effect on their erection, they should discuss this with their doctor. A healthcare professional may be able to suggest suitable alternative options.
Sexual arousal requires many processes that involve the brain, hormones, nerves, blood vessels, muscles, and emotions. A problem with any of these could contribute to ED.
Causes of ED may include:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- heart disease
- multiple sclerosis
- low self-esteem
- smoking tobacco
- drinking too much alcohol
- using illegal drugs
- certain medications, such as blood pressure medications, antidepressants, tranquilizers, and appetite suppressants
Typically, a primary care physician or a urologist will diagnose ED. They may take a medical and sexual history and perform a physical and mental health examination to help make a diagnosis.
A medical history helps doctors diagnose diseases that may contribute to ED, and reviewing someone’s sexual activity can determine problems with sexual desire, erection, or ejaculation. A doctor may ask questions to establish psychological or emotional issues that may lead to ED.
Additionally, doctors may order blood tests or imaging tests to reach a diagnosis.
A healthcare professional will work with a person to treat the underlying cause of ED. They may suggest making lifestyle changes such as:
- quitting smoking, if applicable
- limiting alcohol consumption
- increasing physical activity
If medications for medical conditions are causing ED, a doctor may suggest taking an alternative or changing their dosage.
A doctor may prescribe a medicine to help a person gain and maintain an erection, such as:
- sildenafil (Viagra)
- vardenafil (Levitra)
- tadalafil (Cialis)
- avanafil (Stendra)
A person can contact a doctor for advice if they regularly experience ED, which is often a symptom of another physical or mental health condition. Doctors will aim to diagnose and treat the underlying condition to improve ED.
Low blood pressure is not typically a cause of ED. However, some medications doctors prescribe to treat ED may cause a rapid drop in blood pressure if people take them with other medications.
ED medicines, nitrate medications, and alpha-blockers all relax and widen blood vessels, so if someone combines them, they may experience a severe decrease in blood pressure.
There is also a link between high blood pressure and ED. High blood pressure can cause the arteries to harden and narrow, reducing blood flow to the penis and making it more difficult for a person to get and maintain an erection.
Some medications to treat high blood pressure may also contribute to ED. In these circumstances, doctors may alter the type or dosage of the drug to prevent these side effects.
Doctors treat ED in various ways depending on the cause. Treatment may range from lifestyle changes to taking ED medicines.