If you’re taking medication to treat blood pressure, depression, pain, allergies, inflammation, seizures, or heart conditions, you’re one of the tens of millions of people at risk for medically induced erectile dysfunction. It’s just the nature of drug side effects. Yet erectile dysfunction is one of the least talked about side effects of prescription medication.
Taking these life-saving medication doesn’t have to mean choosing between your health and a healthy sex life. Medically induced erectile dysfunction is something you (and your doctor) can fix. You just have to ask a few simple questions. Here are three super easy ways to fix medically induced erectile dysfunction. No, really.
Medically Induced Erectile Dysfunction
Erections are extremely complicated and surprisingly fragile. Erections involve chemical signals, nerve impulses, complicated blood pressure changes, and overall fitness in systems ranging from your heart and hormones to your mood. When medication changes how one of these factors works—like blood pressure drops or depression medication—ED is a common side effect. The problem with these completely predictable medically induced side effects is how people react.
When most men experience ED as a side effect of medication, they typically do one of two things:
- Stop taking their (very important) medication
- Live with ED
Neither of these is an ideal option, for obvious reasons.
Coping with ED isn’t something you should have to “deal with” just to stay healthy. Sexual health and an active sex life are integral parts of your health and wellness. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice one important part of your life to service another.
As a primary care doctor, my most important job is to tailor treatment for my patients while still making decisions based on the medical literature. So when patients tell me their treatment is causing undesired side effects—like ED—I work with them to create a plan to treat the condition while also finding a way to relieve those side effects. Fortunately, there are ways to deal with medically induced ED.
While practicing medicine with underserved populations, I needed to treat a wide variety of conditions with limited resources. I had to get creative. As a result, I came up with this three-step approach to deal with medically induced ED that works the vast majority of the time.
Step 1: Is My Medication Still Necessary?
The first step in the process is always to reevaluate if the medication that’s causing the problem is even necessary in the first place. Do you still need the medication(s) that you’re taking? When you’re experiencing medically induced ED, this has to be your starting point. Obviously you shouldn’t make this decision on your own. However, reevaluating your need for medication can be a simple conversation with your doctor. Remind your healthcare provider of the medications you’re taking, and explain any symptoms or side effects—like ED. Going off of medication might sound like an extreme step, but I’ve seen many examples of this in practice.
One patient took Xanax for years after his initial prescription during a particularly stressful period in his life. He just kept taking it because nobody told him to stop, even though he didn’t need it anymore. In many cases removing excess medication can single-handedly correct many cases of medically induced ED.
Step 2: Is There an Alternative Medicine?
If your medication is still necessary, the next step is to see whether there’s an alternative medication that can treat your condition without causing ED. A good example of this is a patient taking beta blockers (propranolol) to prevent migraine headaches.
If the patient experiences ED due to the propranolol, we can see if he experiences the same benefit from Topamax, which is also used to prevent migraines and isn’t generally associated with ED.
There are a lot of alternative medications. Believe me. Speak to your doctor about side effects and desired outcomes (aka you want your erections back) to see if you can devise a different treatment strategy that works for both of you.
Step 3: Is Viagra or Cialis Right for Me?
Despite all the options and alternatives, sometimes there’s no suitable alternative to a prescription that contributes to ED. You might have an adverse reaction to an particular medication or an alternative is unavailable in your state, health insurance plan, or your budget. There are good reasons you were prescribed your original medication in the first place.
An example of this is a patient who takes Paxil to control his severe depression. He doesn’t respond well to other therapies, but Paxil is causing ED. In this case, his best option is to treat the ED directly with conventional ED medications like Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra.
If you and your doctor decide to take this third approach to treating medically induced ED, it’s worth (quickly) noting the main differences between Sildenafil (Viagra) and Tadalafil (Cialis). This will help you decide which medication is right for you.
The Differences Between Viagra and Cialis
The two main differences between Viagra (sildenafil) and Cialis (tadalafil) are:
- How quickly each medication starts working
- How long the medication is effective in your system
Viagra can be effective in as little as 1 hour, while Cialis might not take effect for 2 hours, though for some patients these medicines can work more rapidly. Secondly, Viagra leaves the body in about 6 to 8 hours, while Cialis can work for 24 to 36 hours.
That means that while both medications are very effective–approximately 85% of patients will achieve a satisfactory erection with either–Viagra (sildenafil) will work reliably for 6-8 hours but Cialis (tadalafil) will work for up to 36 hours. But it’s worth noting that more isn’t always better.
ED medication comes with it’s own side effects and best use cases, including things like nasal congestion or flushing. Cialis is effective for longer, but you might not want or need that large of a window. Again, it all depends on your desired outcome and your particular reaction to the medication.
Treating Medically Induced Erectile Dysfunction
This three-step process works for the vast majority of patients who experience medically induced erectile dysfunction. You don’t have to live with ED to treat other health conditions. Talk to your doctor about these three steps and see if you can change or alter the medication that’s causing ED.
- Review older prescriptions to see if they’re still relevant
- Explore alternative medications and treatment options
- See if ED medication is right for you
Geek Out: More Medically Induced ED Resources
Not enough info for you? No problem. Nerd out on erectile dysfunction with these studies and research from the most trusted sources on the interwebs. If you have any questions or you think we missed something important, leave a comment or book a consultation with me or one of these trained professionals and we’ll get you on the way to a healthier manhood.
- Erectile Dysfunction in the Elderly (I J End)
- Common prescription medication use and erectile dysfunction (BJUI)