Aspirin and Erectile Dysfunction: Is There a Link?

Researchers Suspect Likely Connection between Usage of NSAIDs and Risk of Erectile Dysfunction

Men who regularly take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen for treating pain might significantly increase the risk of developing erectile dysfunction (ED), two recent studies suggest. The association of aspirin, ibuprofen and other NSAIDs with erectile dysfunction was originated by a small study in Finland. The surprising results observed in the Finland study were confirmed in a much larger study carried out by Kaiser Permenente Medical Center in Los Angeles.

The results of these two studies contradicted widely spread beliefs about the causes of erectile dysfunction. Usually, erectile dysfunction is associated with increased inflammation, cardiovascular problems, as well as decreased circulation. Researchers held the hypothesis: should be erectile dysfunction caused by inflammation, among other factors, the anti-inflammatory medications would have a beneficial effect. Aspirin is widely known to protect against heart disease, and erectile dysfunction is rather common in heart disease patients.

Kaiser researchers studied more than 80,000 male patients who were Kaiser`s health plan participants, between 45 and 69 of age at enrollment, and established that regular usage of aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), naproxen (Anaprox, Aleve, Naprosyn), and other NSAIDs was associated with a 22% increase in the risk of ED.

In the study, regular users of NSAIDs have been defined as those who on drugstore records were taking more than a 100-day supply of at least one NSAID, any prescription for at least three doses daily, or those who self-reported taking NSAIDS at least five days in any given week in the research questionnaire.

About 33% male participants younger than 50 admitted regular use of NSAIDS and 13% reported erection difficulties. Some 55% of men in their 60s admitted regular NSAID use of anti-inflammatory drugs and 42% reported ED. As it follows, regular in-take of aspirin and other anti-inflammatory medications was more common in more senior men. Not surprisingly, so was erectile dysfunction.

Across all study participants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs were taken regularly by 47% of the male patients in the research. Nearly 30% of the patients who were regularly using NSAID drugs reported moderate to severe manifestations of erectile dysfunction. Effectively, regular users of NSAID drugs were 2.4 times more likely to experience ED than male patients who took them infrequently or did not take them at all. According to statistics from the National Institutes of Health, approximately 5% of men in their early 40s and some 15-25% of 65-year-old men suffer from erectile disorders on a long-term basis.

The researchers of the Kaiser study factored in the impact of age, diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and other conditions that might contribute to erectile disorders, yet the link between erectile dysfunction and NSAIDs remained.

The researchers indicated that the regular use of NSAID medications and resultant erectile dysfunction risk was beyond and above what would be anticipated due to age or other pre-existing conditions. More precisely, an increased risk of ED, by 22%, was seen after adjusting for all the relevant risk factors. Moreover, male patients who regularly took NSAIDs were 38% more likely to report difficulties maintaining an erection. The study results at Kaiser were similar to those attained in a much smaller study in Finland.

To explain the contradictory conclusion of the study, researchers at Kaiser Permenente offered several theories for the outcomes found. One theory specified that while NSAIDs improve blood circulation, there might be other pathways that these medications inhibit, which leads to amplified erectile problems.

Further Investigation Needed

According to Steven J. Jacobsen, MD, director of research at Kaiser Permanente Southern California, the research does not prove that aspirin and other NSAIDs cause erectile dysfunction, nevertheless the study findings necessitate further investigation since so many men in their 40s and older use aspirin on a daily basis to lower their risk for stroke and heart attack.

Dr. Jacobsen did not recommend that male patients stop using anti-inflammatory medications because of the research findings since the link researchers observed might not have been causal. Yet, further research is needed because NSAIDs are widely used to treat and prevent multiple conditions.

Dietary and Lifestyle Changes May Mitigate Risk of ED Development

Following conflicting understanding of the interaction of certain medications and erectile dysfunction, another body of research has established that some dietary factors can actually reduce the risk of ED.

A study recently published in the International Journal of Impotence Research sheds new light on dietary factors having positive impact in the context of erectile dysfunction. Researchers established that intake of nuts and fruits have been associated with a decreased risk of erectile dysfunction. The higher ratio of monounsaturated fat to saturated fat consumption was also connected with the reduced risk. Researchers determined that the embracing of a healthier diet might potentially counteract to the development of male erectile dysfunction.

In the face of health problems and adversary effects from medications that increase the risk of reproductive dysfunction in male patients, lifestyle and dietary changes offer an opportunity for improvement for those men willing to assume responsibility for their own reproductive health.