Blood thinners and erectile dysfunction
Reviewed by our clinical team
Erectile dysfunction (ED) can be stressful and anxiety-inducing for men. Although there are a number of triggers and causes of ED, one of the most common concerns among older men is whether medications taken for other issues can cause or worsen it.
In this article, we will take a look at the link between blood thinners and erectile dysfunction.
What are blood thinners?
Blood thinners are medications designed to prevent blood clots, which can lead to strokes. These are generally prescribed by doctors after certain types of surgical procedures, or to patients experiencing heart problems or cardiovascular disease.
Blood thinners work to lower the risk of blood clots forming and prevent existing blood clots from getting bigger. They come in two types, anticoagulants and antiplatelets.
The most common form of blood thinner, anticoagulants work to slow the formation of blood clots in those who are predisposed to them, such as people who have recently had heart surgery or are experiencing cardiovascular disease. Types of anticoagulants include warfarin, enoxaparin, and heparin.
Antiplatelets, meanwhile, affect the blood cells (known as platelets) in your body, and prevent them from creating blood clots. Common antiplatelets include aspirin, dipyridamoleticlopidine and clopidogrel.
Do blood thinners cause erectile dysfunction?
There’s no scientific consensus on whether blood thinners cause erectile dysfunction, however many other medications taken for heart problems can contribute to or worsen ED, so if you are taking blood thinners you are likely also taking another medication which could cause ED, such as beta-blockers.
It’s important to speak to your doctor and identify whether your existing medication is contributing to erectile dysfunction.
High blood pressure and erectile dysfunction
Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure can prevent the arteries in the penis from dilating, and make it more difficult for it to relax, meaning not enough blood makes it to the penis to create or sustain an erection.
Medications designed to treat high blood pressure, such as diuretics and beta-blockers, have been shown to cause or worsen erectile dysfunction. As these are often taken in conjunction with blood thinners, many men mistakenly believe that blood thinners are causing their erectile dysfunction.
Is Viagra a blood thinner?
Similarly, some men believe that Viagra acts as a blood thinner, but this isn’t the case.
Viagra works by inhibiting an enzyme called PDE-5, which causes the loss of an erection following intercourse, but often accidentally triggers ED in older men. By inhibiting PDE-5, Viagra increases the blood flow to the penis and makes it easy to gain and maintain an erection.
There are some side effects that come with using Viagra, but blood thinning is not one of them.
Erectile dysfunction treatments
There is a range of treatments available for those experiencing erectile dysfunction.
Although it’s perfectly safe for those on blood thinners to take erectile dysfunction medication, you should still discuss any treatment with your doctor beforehand to ensure it doesn’t interact negatively.
The first port of call for many when it comes to treating erectile dysfunction is medication. Three of the most most common erectile dysfunction pills are Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra. These medications work similarly to one another, with a few differences, and it mainly comes down to personal preference when choosing the one that works for you.
- Viagra, the branded version of Sildenafil, should be taken on an empty stomach and kick in around one hour after taking the pill, lasting for up to six hours.
- Levitra, the branded version of Vardenafil, is very similar to Viagra/sildenafil and lasts between four to six hours. One difference between Levitra and Viagra is that vardenafil is less affected by food so can be taken with a meal or alcohol. There is also some evidence that shows Levitra is more effective than Viagra in men with diabetes.
- Cialis, the branded version of Tadalafil, is the longest-lasting pill, potentially up to 36 hours, so many men prefer it as it requires less planning. Cialis can also be taken with food but the effects might be reduced by alcohol.
Doctors recommend that you try a pill a few times before switching to a different type.
Although ED medication can be taken alongside blood thinners, those taking alpha-blockers, which are often prescribed for prostate problems or occasionally for high blood pressure, should not use Cialis.
Vacuum pump for ED
If medication isn’t suitable for you, your doctor might recommend a vacuum pump. This type of pump is placed over the penis and a bulb is squeezed to remove air. This gently forces the penis to become erect. These are often used in conjunction with constriction rings, which are placed at the base of the penis and trap blood to maintain an erection.
Often, erectile dysfunction is psychological rather than physical, and your doctor might prescribe an alternative erectile dysfunction treatment such as therapy or counselling to address the underlying issue.
Counselling might be combined with a medical treatment that addresses the problem in the short term. Once the counselling has resolved the issue, medical treatment can usually be stopped.
Erectile dysfunction can be very stressful and is a point of concern for many men. This has led to many myths surrounding erectile dysfunction.
If you are concerned about your erectile health, or think your medication may be interfering with your ability to get an erection, you can use our online consultation to see if treatment might be right for you, you could also book an appointment with your GP or speak to one of our LloydsPharmacy VideoGPs.