Reviewed by Vicky Davis, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
If you suffer from a heart or blood vessel issue that increases your risk of experiencing a blood clot, your healthcare provider might suggest using a blood thinner to reduce your risk and keep you healthy.
More than two million people in the United States take blood thinners on a daily basis, making them some of the most common prescription medications on the market.
Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is also common. It’s a sexual performance issue that can happen in men of all ages and backgrounds, and is often triggered by medical conditions or certain types of medication.
But are blood thinners one of the types of medicine that can cause ED?
Currently, there’s no high-quality scientific research to suggest that blood thinners either cause or contribute to erectile dysfunction. However, some cardiovascular health conditions for which blood thinners are prescribed have been linked to ED.
Below, we’ve explained what blood thinners are, as well as why your healthcare provider might suggest using blood thinner medication.
We’ve also gone into detail on the possible link between blood thinners, cardiovascular disease and issues that can affect your erectile function.
Finally, we’ve covered treatment options that you may want to consider if you're one of the tens of millions of men affected by ED and want to improve your erections and sexual health.
Blood thinners are prescription medications that are used to prevent blood clots from forming in your veins.
Clotting, or coagulation, is a critical process that prevents you from bleeding excessively when a capillary, vein or artery in your body is injured. When an injury happens, blood cells and proteins develop into a blood clot, which helps stop the bleeding.
As you heal, the blood clots formed naturally inside your body slowly dissolve, allowing blood to flow normally.
Although blood clots are essential for effective healing, they can sometimes develop inside your blood vessels without breaking down properly. Some people also develop blood clots without an injury occurring.
These blood clots can be harmful, as they can detach from your blood vessels and travel to your heart, lungs or other essential organs. This can result in serious medical issues, including heart attacks, strokes and pulmonary embolisms.
There are two main types of blood thinner medications. The first type, anticoagulants, lower your risk of blood clots by slowing down the internal process that your body uses to produce blood clots. Common anticoagulant medications include heparin and warfarin.
The second type, antiplatelets, work by preventing blood cells called platelets from clumping to plug holes in your blood vessels. Common antiplatelets include the medications aspirin and clopidogrel.
If you have an elevated risk of blood clots, your healthcare provider might recommend that you take a blood thinner to decrease your risk, especially if you have a high risk of stroke or heart attack.
For example, you may be prescribed a blood thinner if you have:
Atrial fibrillation, a type of abnormal heart rhythm
Certain types of heart and/or blood vessel disease
Recently undergone surgery and have a high risk of clotting
A congenital heart defect that increases your risk of blood clots
Undergone heart valve repair or replacement surgery
If you’re prescribed a blood thinner, it’s important to use it exactly as your healthcare provider tells you to. They will also tell you about potential interactions, as well as specific steps that you can follow to stay safe while using your medication.
Erectile dysfunction is a common sexual issue that affects men. If you have ED, you may find it difficult to get an erection, maintain an erection that’s hard enough for sexual intercourse or get an erection on a consistent basis.
ED is most common in older men, but it can occur in men of all ages. In fact, research suggests that an estimated 30 million in the United States are affected by erectile dysfunction.
Our guide to erectile dysfunction symptoms goes into more detail about common warning signs that you may have ED.
Like many other conditions that can affect sexual activity, erectile dysfunction can also occur as a side effect of certain medications.
For example, some medications used to treat high blood pressure, prostate cancer, depression, anxiety, sleep issues and stomach ulcers are linked to an increased risk of difficulty achieving a natural erection.
If you’re prescribed a blood thinner and suffer from erectile dysfunction, it’s normal to wonder if your medication might be responsible.
However, there isn’t any current, reliable evidence to suggest that blood thinners can cause erectile dysfunction or make existing ED symptoms more severe.
In fact, some of the evidence that is available suggests that certain blood thinner medications, such as aspirin, might improve erections and sexual function in men with ED caused by heart disease.
However, one thing to keep in mind is that blood thinners are often prescribed alongside other medications for your heart and vascular system, including some that may cause ED.
For example, many medications for hypertension (high blood pressure), heart failure and other cardiovascular health issues are linked to an increased risk of erectile dysfunction.
These medications, which include thiazides diuretics, beta blockers and alpha blockers, have a potential side effect of either causing erectile dysfunction or making your existing ED problems more noticeable and severe.
Some cholesterol-lowering medications, which are also commonly used to treat cardiovascular health issues, may also cause or contribute to ED.
This means that if you’re prescribed other heart or blood pressure medications for use with an anticoagulant or antiplatelet blood thinner, you might experience ED symptoms even if they’re not directly caused by the blood thinner itself.
Another thing to keep in mind is that many health conditions for which blood thinners are used as treatments are also linked to erectile dysfunction.
For example, common physical health issues that can cause erectile dysfunction include heart and blood vessel disease, atherosclerosis (clogged arteries), high blood pressure, injuries that affect your penis and/or surrounding area, type 2 diabetes and multiple sclerosis (MS).
Many of these health issues can affect blood flow throughout your body, and result in poor blood flow to the erectile tissue inside your penis that’s critical in getting and maintaining an erection.
If you have one or several of these risk factors for ED, you might experience ED while taking a blood thinner even if your medication has no effect on your sexual function.
Our full guide to the causes of erectile dysfunction discusses physical health problems, mental health issues and other factors that may cause or contribute to ED.
If you’ve been taking a blood thinner and feel like it’s more difficult for you to get and/or maintain an erection than it was before, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider.
Erectile dysfunction is treatable, and letting your healthcare provider know that you’re finding it difficult to get or stay hard is a good first step towards learning more about your options and, if appropriate, taking action.
If your ED is caused by a physical health issue that affects the blood supply to your penis, your healthcare provider may suggest treating the specific issue. This could mean using medication or making changes to your habits and lifestyle.
In some cases, you may be prescribed ED medication to treat erectile dysfunction and improve your sexual function.
Currently, all oral medications for ED are part of a class of drugs called PDE5 inhibitors, which work by expanding the blood vessels that supply your penis and improving blood flow to your erectile tissue.
We offer numerous ED medications online, which can be prescribed following a consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate for you.
If you’re considering medication for ED, it’s important to inform your healthcare provider about all medications and recreational drugs you currently use or have recently used.
Erectile dysfunction medications are safe and effective for most men, but they can interact with some medications used to treat high blood pressure, as well as recreational drugs that contain ingredients called nitrates.
We’ve discussed these interactions more, as well as how you can avoid them, in our full guide to common sildenafil interactions.
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If you’re currently prescribed a medication that could cause erectile dysfunction, like some medications to treat heart disease or high blood pressure, your healthcare provider may suggest adjusting your dosage.
They may temporarily switch you to a lower dose to see if your symptoms improve, or suggest a similar medication that’s less likely to cause issues.
Make sure to talk with your healthcare provider before making any changes to the way you take your medication.
In addition to taking medication for ED, making small but meaningful changes to your habits and daily life can often have a positive impact on your ability to get an erection and enjoy a satisfying sex life.
Often, simple changes such as limiting your alcohol consumption, increasing the total amount of physical exercise you get, maintaining a healthy body weight and avoiding illicit substances can improve blood flow to your penis and make getting an erection easier.
If you think your erectile dysfunction is caused by stress, depression, anxiety or another mental health issue, talk therapy may also help.
Other changes, such as following a healthy diet, quitting smoking and taking steps to lower your risk of chronic health conditions can also help to treat and prevent ED.
Our guide to naturally maintaining an erection goes into greater detail about habits and lifestyle changes that you can use for healthier erections and better sexual function.
Do blood thinners cause erectile dysfunction? Currently, there’s no scientific research to suggest that taking a blood thinner increases your risk of experiencing ED, changes in sexual arousal or any other sex-related health issues.
However, several medical conditions that are common in people prescribed blood thinners, such as high blood pressure and heart disease, are linked to erectile dysfunction.
If you’re prescribed blood thinners and find it difficult to get or stay hard during sex, it’s important to inform your healthcare provider. They may suggest adjusting your dosage, changing to a new type of medication or using medication to improve blood flow and treat ED.
If you’re interested in accessing professional help for erectile dysfunction, you can take part in a private ED consultation online. If appropriate, you may receive a prescription for ED medication to improve your erections and sexual function.
Want to learn more before you get started? Our guide to the most common ED treatments goes into more detail about how erectile dysfunction medications work, from their average duration to dosages, side effects and more.