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How Beta Blockers Affect Erectile Dysfunction

April 10, 2024
4 mins

While erectile dysfunction is commonly associated with age, the reality is that it impacts men of all ages, and for a variety of reasons. Many, in fact, involve medical conditions or are related to mental health, but another common source is as a side effect of various medications. 

In the case of beta blockers, not only are they a common cause of erectile dysfunction, but so is the high blood pressure that beta blockers are often prescribed to treat. 

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What are Beta Blockers? 

Beta adrenergic blocking agents – more commonly known as beta blockers – are prescription medications primarily used to treat conditions involving the cardiovascular system.   

Beta blockers help to treat various issues by blocking the release of the stress hormone epinephrine, more commonly known as adrenaline.

When adrenaline is released, a person may experience an elevated heartbeat and an increase in blood pressure, often resulting in excessive sweating and heart palpitations. Adrenaline causes blood vessels to constrict, requiring blood to be pumped more forcefully to get through. 

By blocking the release of adrenaline, stress on the heart and cardiovascular system can be significantly reduced. 

When Do Doctors Prescribe Beta Blockers?

Beta blockers are typically not the first treatment for high blood pressure and are generally prescribed once other treatments have failed. They are also often prescribed with other medications in order to lower blood pressure.

There are actually three different types of beta blockers available, although only two of them are used for medicinal purposes. 

Beta 1 blockers focus only on the adrenergic receptors located in the heart and kidneys, while beta 2 blockers focus on the lungs, liver, stomach, smooth muscles, and skeletal muscles. These two are used most frequently as medical treatments, as beta 3 blockers focus on receptors found in fat cells. 

What’s the Connection Between Beta Blockers and ED

One of the most common side effects of beta blockers is erectile dysfunction. Beta blockers impact various components of the nervous system as well as blood flow in the body. Both of these actions can result in the symptoms of erectile dysfunction. 

While too much adrenaline can be bad for erections due to the constriction of blood vessels, its ability to make blood pump more forcefully through the body generally helps with erections. 

Since beta blockers reduce the release of adrenaline, this hormone may not support blood flow strong enough to result in an erection. Additionally, beta blockers work to slow heart rate and lower blood pressure. 

Having too low of blood pressure means that the penis may not get sufficient blood supply to achieve an erection or insufficient pressure to maintain an erection. 

How Common is ED in Men Who Take Beta Blockers?

While not all men who take beta blockers will experience erectile dysfunction, it is a fairly common side effect of the medication. 

Studies suggest that ED occurs in up to 25-30% of men taking beta blockers, with higher rates reported in older men and those with pre-existing risk factors for ED such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and smoking. 

Are There Alternative Blood Pressure Meds That Don't Cause ED?

There are a few medications for high blood pressure that carry significantly less risk of resulting in erectile dysfunction. These include:

  • Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors) 

  • Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs)

  • Calcium channel blockers

If you're currently taking a beta blocker or diuretic and experiencing erectile dysfunction, talk to your doctor about switching to an alternative medication. 

How Do You Treat ED?

Lifestyle changes

Making changes to your lifestyle can help improve the quality of your erections by addressing the underlying causes of the dysfunction. Exercising regularly, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, and maintaining a healthy weight can all be effective ways in improving your health. As a result of these changes, your sexual function is also likely to improve. 

ED medications

Oral medications like sildenafil (Viagra) and tadalafil (Cialis) are commonly prescribed to help increase blood flow to the penis and improve erectile function. 

These medications are known as PDE5 inhibitors – or phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors.

They work by blocking the action of the enzyme PDE5, which causes the smooth muscles in the penile arteries to relax, promoting blood flow to the penis. This action leads to an erection. 

PDE5 inhibitors are common among men of all ages and considered safe by health experts. 

Can You Take Viagra with Beta Blockers?

It’s safe to take Viagra with beta blockers as the two medications do not have any negative interactions.

Since beta blockers can sometimes cause ED, using Viagra may help improve erectile function. 

This being said, Viagra may interact with other medications used to treat high blood pressure including:

  • Alpha-blockers

  • Nitrates

  • Certain calcium channel blockers, such as amlodipine

How Can I Get Viagra?

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