Certain cardiovascular diseases — including hypertension (high blood pressure) — can cause erectile dysfunction (ED). Unfortunately, some types of blood pressure medication may also affect your ability to get an erection.
Which blood pressure medications cause ED? And what can you do to improve it?
Many issues can contribute to erectile dysfunction, from physical health conditions and psychological issues to lifestyle factors and medications. Figuring out the root causes of your ED can be the first step in getting effective treatment.
If you start experiencing ED after taking blood pressure medications, there’s a chance the drugs are affecting your sexual function. Since some blood pressure drugs are less likely to cause ED than others, a healthcare professional might suggest changing your medication.
Let’s look at which blood pressure medications cause ED and what you can do about it.
Blood pressure medications — also called antihypertensive drugs — are among many groups of medications that may cause ED.
There are several types of blood pressure medications. Some are more likely to cause ED than others — or at least, more people report erectile dysfunction as a side effect of certain blood pressure medications.
Common beta blockers include:
Atenolol (generic Tenormin®)
Carvedilol (generic Coreg®)
Metoprolol (generic for Lopressor and Toprol XL®)
Propranolol (generic for Inderal and Inderal LA®)
Beta blockers work by blocking the effects of certain stress hormones — like adrenaline. Since they reduce the effects of these hormones, they slow the heart rate and lower blood pressure.
Research shows that beta blockers might cause erectile dysfunction. Other side effects of beta blockers include tiredness, cold hands and asthma symptoms.
Beta blockers were given to all participants in the study, but only some were told erectile dysfunction was a possible side effect. Of those who were told, 31.2 percent reported having ED, whereas only 3.1 percent of those who weren’t told said they experienced the condition.
The study went on to treat men who reported having ED. Interestingly, both sildenafil (Viagra®) and placebo ED medications worked equally well for those participants.
Hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) is a medication that’s used alone or with other medications to treat high blood pressure. It can also treat edema (fluid retention), which can be a result of certain medical conditions issues or a side effect of various medications.
This drug is a diuretic (also known as a “water pill”). It essentially makes the kidneys get rid of excess fluid and salt.
Sexual dysfunction can occur with all blood pressure medications. But there are fewer reports of ED with certain blood pressure medications, which suggests that some drugs are less likely to cause erection problems.
Alpha blockers relax muscles in the vascular walls (the layer of cells between blood and smooth muscle within blood vessels) to lower blood pressure. Common alpha blockers include doxazosin (Cardura®), prazosin (Minipress®) and terazosin (Hytrin®).
These medications are unlikely to cause sexual side effects like erectile dysfunction. If you have ED and take alpha blockers, it’s possible another issue is to blame.
Don’t dig into your buddy’s ED prescription, no matter how well it works for him. Always speak with a healthcare professional before trying any ED treatment.
ACE-inhibiting medications reduce the effects of angiotensin-converting enzymes in your body. (These enzymes narrow your blood vessels, which increases blood pressure.) By widening blood vessels, they lower blood pressure.
ACE inhibitors may cause uncomfortable side effects like headaches, fatigue or a loss of appetite. Erectile dysfunction isn’t a commonly reported side effect.
According to a 2014 review, ACE inhibitors may even improve sexual function. Some believe it’s because they stimulate nitric oxide production, which is essential for erectile function.
Angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs) are often used to treat blood pressure. Sometimes called angiotensin II receptor blockers, they work by reducing the effects of angiotensin II, a hormone that restricts blood vessels.
The most common side effect of ARBs is dizziness. If you experience this, definitely let your healthcare provider know.
ARBs aren’t commonly reported to affect sexual activity. In fact, the above-mentioned 2014 review noted that these may actually have beneficial effects on sexual function — so much so that the researchers recommended using ARBs for patients who have ED.
You think your blood pressure medications may be causing ED. What’s the next step?
Before you do anything, we want to emphasize that you shouldn’t change your medication without consulting a healthcare practitioner. Don’t adjust your dosage, either.
If left untreated, high blood pressure may lead to heart attack, stroke or kidney disease. Incidentally, it’s also a risk factor for ED.
So, to take care of your erectile function and cardiovascular health, seeking medical advice from a qualified professional is vital.
For men with high blood pressure, there are many possible treatment options for ED.
When it comes to erectile dysfunction, speaking with a healthcare professional should be your first move. They can help you figure out the root cause of your ED, which may or may not be blood pressure medication.
If your provider thinks your medication could be contributing to the issue, they might suggest switching medications or changing your dosage.
They may also prescribe erectile dysfunction treatments that are safe to use with your blood pressure medication.
The same active ingredients as Viagra®. Starts working in 30 minutes and lasts up to 60.
Same active ingredient as Cialis®. Starts working in 1 hour and lasts up to 24 hours.
Exclusively at Hims, starts working in 15 minutes and lasts up to 6 hours. Same active ingredients as Levitra®.
A healthcare professional can advise you on erectile dysfunction medications that may suit your unique needs.
Not all ED meds are safe to take with blood pressure medications. In certain doses, these drugs can interact with each other and potentially cause serious side effects.
But since these medications widen blood vessels, they can also lower blood pressure. So if you combine PDE5 inhibitors with certain doses of high blood pressure medications, your blood pressure could drop dangerously low.
That said, PDE5 inhibitors might be safe and effective for people with hypertension, according to research. A medical professional can assess which medications are safe for you.
Common PDE5 inhibitors include:
Vardenafil (sold under the brand names Levitra® and Staxyn®)
Our hard mints are chewable ED meds that contain the same active ingredients as these prescription treatments in safe, effective doses.
Some PDE5 inhibitors are taken once a day, while others are taken shortly before sexual intercourse. It’s important to use your ED meds as specified by your healthcare provider — and not to increase your dosage.
When medication is a no-go, physical treatments can help. For example, penile vacuum therapy can help you achieve an erection. This involves using a vacuum erection device to increase blood flow to the penis, making it possible to get and maintain an erection.
The mind is an incredibly powerful thing — and your mental health can affect your sexual function. Although many people don’t realize it, psychological ED is real.
Fortunately, there are many ways to prioritize your mental health. You might consider in-person or online therapy, which can help you find and address the root cause of the issue.
Of course, the benefits of therapy go beyond improving your sex life. Taking care of your mental health can boost your relationships, self-esteem and overall well-being.
For some people, the most effective treatment for ED isn’t a pill or a device but healthy day-to-day habits.
A 2020 review of studies found that lifestyle modifications play an essential role in improving sexual health in both men and women. These healthy habits can be used alongside (or instead of) medications.
Some lifestyle changes that promote erectile function include:
Avoiding drugs and excessive alcohol
Following a balanced diet
As a bonus, all these lifestyle changes are great for high blood pressure and overall cardiovascular health. Not only can they improve erectile function, but they can also lower your chances of developing heart disease. Win-win!
Certain blood pressure medications can cause ED. On top of that, high blood pressure — especially when left untreated — can contribute to erectile function.
Here’s the bottom line:
Not all blood pressure medications tend to cause ED. While ED is a frequently reported side effect of beta blockers and hydrochlorothiazide, for example, other blood pressure medications are less likely to cause ED.
Don’t change your blood pressure drugs without consulting a professional. Blood pressure is not something to take lightly. Never, ever change your dosage, stop your medication or use a different drug without medical supervision.
Treatment options are available. Certain erectile dysfunction medications are shown to be safe and effective. Other possible ED treatments include mental health care and ED devices.
Ready to take the first step in addressing ED? We can connect you with a qualified medical professional through our telehealth platform.
Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!
Kate Hagerty is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over a decade of healthcare experience. She has worked in critical care, community health, and as a retail health provider.