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June 20, 2018  |  Login
by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.D.

The following drugs may cause impotence; popular brand names for those drugs are also given, where applicable.


Popular Brand Names (where applicable)

Antidepressants and tranquilizers Ativan, Paxil, Prozac, Valium, Xanax
Antihistamines Most cold, flu, and allergy medicines
Antihypertensives Cardizem, Inderal, Procardia
Antacids Pepcid, Tagamet, Zantac
Diuretics Dyazid, Lasix

Impotence, also referred to as erectile dysfunction, is a man's inability to attain or sustain an erection sufficient for normal, satisfying sexual intercourse. It was once thought that almost all impotence was caused by psychological factors, but we now know that as many as 85 percent of cases are brought on by physiological disturbances. No matter what the cause, it helps most men to realize that they are not alone. Nearly every man experiences impotence at some point, and almost 20 million have chronic or recurring problems.

Many physiological factors may contribute to impotence, but the most frequent are hormonal changes, medications, diet, and chronic illness. Low levels of testosterone, the male sex hormone, are a critical link to male impotence. The most common cause of impotence is atherosclerosis, which is hardening of the arteries with plaque build up. This causes a problem with blood flow to the penis. See the cardiovascular disease page for a comprehensive program to reverse this vascular problem. Also, dilation of the arteries and blood flow to the genital area are dependent on a chemical produced in the body known as nitric oxide.

In addition, many prescription drugs can cause reduced blood flow to the genitals or can interfere with brain activity, hormones, or nerve transmission. If you suffer from impotence and are on a prescription medication, talk to your doctor. He or she may be able to find alternatives for you.

Diet is another common cause. Just as a high-fat, low-fiber routine can inhibit blood flow to the heart, it can also block the arteries that lead to the penis. Men with high blood pressure or arteriosclerosis may have difficulty maintaining erections. Other chronic illnesses, especially diabetes, can take a toll as well.

It is important to note here that aging is not a cause of impotence. While it's
true that impotence affects older people more frequently than it does the rest of the population, this situation can be attributed to the increased incidence of disease and medication in the elderly. And disease itself is not an inevitable part of aging; see aging, for information about staying healthy throughout the full span of your life.

If you are healthy and content, you can be sexually vigorous well into your eighties and beyond.

If you are not chronically impotent-that is, if you are impotent only in certain situations or can achieve an erection on your own or in your sleep, then it's likely that psychological factors are causing or contributing to your problem. Overwork and fatigue have reached epidemic levels in our society, and many men-especially those who have children-simply feel too tired to enjoy sex. Depression, anxiety, stress, fear of failure, and fear of pregnancy are other frequent causes.

Many cases of impotence can be successfully treated with an improvement in lifestyle and dietary habits, as well as with nutritional supplements, but anyone with a chronic problem should see a doctor first to rule out underlying disorders.


Next: What are the Symptoms of Impotence

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