Erectile dysfunction (ED) refers to the inability to get or keep an erection for sexual intercourse. It’s not a natural part of aging, though it is more common among older men. Still, it can affect men at any age.

ED is often the sign of a separate medical condition, such as diabetes or depression. While some drugs can effectively treat this condition, many drugs, including beta-blockers, can sometimes cause the problem.

Your doctor should look at the drugs you take to find possible causes of erectile dysfunction. Drugs for lowering blood pressure are among the most common drug-related causes of ED.

Beta-blockers help lower blood pressure by blocking certain receptors in your nervous system. These are the receptors that are usually affected by chemicals such as epinephrine. Epinephrine constricts your blood vessels and causes blood to pump more forcefully. It’s thought that by blocking these receptors, beta-blockers may interfere with the part of your nervous system responsible for causing an erection.

However, according to the results reported in one study in the European Heart Journal, ED associated with beta-blocker use was not common. The reported cases of ED in men who took beta-blockers may have been a psychological reaction instead. These men had heard before the study that beta-blockers could cause ED. To learn more, read about psychological causes of ED.

Other common blood pressure-lowering medications that can contribute to erectile dysfunction are diuretics. Diuretics cause you to urinate more often. This leaves less fluid in your circulation, which leads to lower blood pressure. Diuretics may also relax muscles in your circulatory system. This may decrease the blood flow to your penis necessary for an erection.

Learn more: Lifestyle and medical conditions that can cause ED »

Other blood pressure drugs may be less likely to cause erectile dysfunction. Calcium channel blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors may be as effective as beta-blockers at reducing high blood pressure. However, there have been fewer reports of erectile dysfunction by men who have used these drugs.

If your doctor thinks that your ED may be related to your beta-blocker and you can’t take other blood pressure drugs, you may still have options. In many cases, you can take drugs to treat erectile dysfunction. Your doctor must have a complete list of your current medications. This can help them know if the ED drugs could interact with drugs you already take.

Currently, there are six drugs on the market to treat erectile dysfunction:

  • Caverject
  • Edex
  • Viagra
  • Stendra
  • Cialis
  • Levitra

Of these, only Caverject and Edex are not oral pills. Instead, they’re injected into your penis.

None of these drugs are currently available as generic products. The side effects of these drugs are similar, and none of them interacts with beta-blockers.

Be sure to take your blood pressure drugs exactly as prescribed. This will help minimize side effects. If erectile dysfunction seems to be a side effect of your beta-blocker, talk with your doctor. They may lower your dosage or switch you to another drug. If these don’t help, a drug to treat ED may be an option for you.