Parkinson’s disease can contribute to erectile dysfunction (ED). Some treatments for Parkinson’s may help with ED symptoms. Treatments like Viagra are typically safe for people with Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s disease occurs when your brain gradually loses its ability to produce dopamine, a hormone involved in many processes throughout the body.

People often call dopamine the “happy hormone” because it helps you experience pleasure and reduces anxiety and depression.

Dopamine dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease can result in changes in your feelings of sexual pleasure. This can result in erectile dysfunction (ED), making it more difficult for you to get and keep an erection.

Read on to learn more about how Parkinson’s can cause ED, as well as medical and nonmedical treatments for people with Parkinson’s who experience ED.

Age

Parkinson’s disease can cause ED as you age. Symptoms of both Parkinson’s and ED are more common as you get older.

A 2022 study notes a close correlation between the age of people with Parkinson’s and how frequently they report symptoms of ED.

Nervous system dysfunction

The effects of Parkinson’s disease on your motor functions and your autonomic nervous system (ANS) are also major factors in the relationship between Parkinson’s and ED.

Your ANS plays an essential role in how your body responds to sexual stimulation.

For people with Parkinson’s disease, neurons in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra don’t function well. According to 2023 research, this also stops cells that produce dopamine from triggering typical ANS responses during sex, including smooth muscle contractions involved in getting an erection.

These changes in your ANS can also affect many motor functions that allow you to masturbate or have sex, including:

  • balance
  • gait
  • posture
  • muscle flexibility

You may also experience tremors, which can make it difficult to control your body during sex, resulting in more difficulty getting an erection.

Mental health

Mental health conditions related to Parkinson’s symptoms can also cause ED, including:

  • stress or frustration from changes in your bodily functions
  • anxiety from not being able to have sex or changes in relationships with sexual partners
  • depression from changes in your health and your sexual relationships

Sexual dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease

Here are some of the most common sexual dysfunctions for people with Parkinson’s disease:

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Dopamine agonists like pramipexole and ropinirole are common treatments for Parkinson’s disease. These medications help your body produce the dopamine it can’t make on its own anymore, often improving symptoms related to dopamine loss that affect arousal and orgasm.

Medications for ED can also help when you have Parkinson’s, especially if you’re older and have age-related causes of ED.

Doctors often prescribe sildenafil (Viagra) for people who have Parkinson’s and ED, especially if other treatments like dopamine agonists aren’t resolving your symptoms.

According to 2017 research, sildenafil is safe and improves ED symptoms in people with Parkinson’s. However, the Parkinson’s Foundation notes that sildenafil may not be suitable for some people with some heart conditions.

Treatments for psychogenic ED related to stress, anxiety, and depression may also help. Counseling or therapy can help you adjust to changes in your life and cope with physical limitations you might face.

Other strategies like sleeping more and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you reduce fatigue, which can trigger ED, and find positive ways to manage changes in your sex life.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about ED and Parkinson’s disease.

How common is erectile dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease?

It’s unclear how common ED is in people with Parkinson’s disease.

But a 2022 analysis of data from the Parkinson’s Real-World Impact Assessment (PRISM) study — consisting of nearly 900 people with the condition — suggests that more than half of people with Parkinson’s experience some sexual dysfunction, with ED being the most commonly reported symptom by males.

Can someone with Parkinson’s take Viagra?

A 2017 study of 20 males with Parkinson’s suggests that headaches may be a side effect of sildenafil (Viagra). But otherwise, the study didn’t find any safety concerns related to taking Viagra for ED with Parkinson’s.

No recent research has reported safety concerns, but a case study from 2010 did find a link between Viagra overuse and choreoathetosis, a movement disorder, in someone with Parkinson’s. Researchers thought this was likely due to taking levodopa and too much Viagra in a short time.

Can levodopa help with ED in Parkinson’s?

There’s some evidence for levodopa as a treatment for ED in Parkinson’s.

Doctors use levodopa to treat motor function symptoms of Parkinson’s that can keep you from feeling like you’re in control of your body, such as freezing and involuntary movements. This can improve your physical control when you’re trying to masturbate or have sex with a partnerand make it easier to get an erection.

A 2021 review found that levodopa helped address some of the causes of ED in Parkinson’s, such as problems with the hormone pathway involved in ejaculation and increases in sexual desire.

Parkinson’s disease can cause erectile dysfunction (ED) due to changes in the way your body uses dopamine. But treatments can help your body continue to produce dopamine and manage the effects of Parkinson’s on your overall health.

Some Parkinson’s treatments, like dopamine agonists, may help with ED symptoms. Other options include ED medications like sildenafil and cognitive behavioral therapy.