High Blood Pressure and Erectile Dysfunction: Working With Your Doctor

If you have high blood pressure (or hypertension) and are having problems with erectile dysfunction (ED), the first step toward a solution is to see your doctor. You may be a bit hesitant to discuss your sex life with a doctor, but rest assured, your doctor has heard it all before and will know how to help you.

Erectile dysfunction is fairly common. One study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that nearly half of men over age 40 with high blood pressure have ED.

Your doctor will need a lot of information from you before suggesting any treatment. If this doctor had been involved in your care for high blood pressure in the past, you can talk about how well you've been controlling your blood pressure and about how you are doing with the medications you're taking. If you are meeting with a new doctor, you will share all that, plus information about other health problems you may have, like diabetes or high cholesterol.

The doctor may discuss any of your potential risk factors for heart disease before recommending treatment, as well as any possible side effects you could be having from medications.

Telling a doctor that you have difficulty with your erection is not the easiest thing to do. But to get the right care you have to tell your doctor everything, including the truth about things like drinking alcohol, using drugs, or smoking cigarettes. It's in your best interest to be totally honest.

You should also be prepared to discuss some possible questions about your sex life. You might be asked some of the following questions:

  • What's your sexual orientation? Do you have sex with men, women, or both?
  • Do you have a steady partner? Multiple partners?
  • How is sex with your partner? Has anything changed recently?
  • Has anything upsetting happened to you lately?
  • In general, are you under a lot of stress?
  • Do you ever feel depressed?

A doctor you are seeing for the first time may also need to examine your penis, testicles, and prostate gland. Some men also have their testosterone level tested.

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There is another test that is done sometimes to help determine whether you get erections while you are asleep. The doctor may send you home with a special tape that you wrap around your penis before you go to bed. If the tape is broken in the morning, you've had an erection during the night. That means the cause of your erection problem may not be physical.

Erectile function may be related to high blood pressure, vascular disease, medication side effects, and sometimes may related to stress or depression. After addressing possible medication side effects, your doctor might prescribe a medication, such as Cialis, Levitra, or Viagra.

You should make an appointment with your doctor afterwards to discuss your response to the medication. If it is not as effective as you would like, you might need a higher dose or possibly switch to a different medication.

It's a good idea to stay in touch with your doctor about your erectile dysfunction. Changes in your health over time may affect your treatment. Since you will already have regular checkups for managing your blood pressure, bring up your erectile dysfunction treatment at those visits.

Remember, there's no such thing as a bad question. Feel free to ask as many of your own, until you're confident that you understand all the risks and benefits of your treatment. Also, it's important to show your doctor all the other medications that you take.

Doctors genuinely want to work with you to solve your health problems. You can help them help you by taking an active role in your care, bringing up your concerns and asking any questions.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on March 21, 2019

Sources

SOURCES: 
American Urological Association, "AUA Guideline on the Management of Erectile Dysfunction: Diagnosis and Treatment Recommendations," 2005. 
Barksdale, J. Pharmacotherapy, May 1999. 
Miller, T. Family Physician, January 2000.

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