Can Blood Thinners Cause ED?

January 2, 2024
A prescription pad and stamp with the word Warfarin on it.

Blood thinners (anticoagulants) are medications that prevent blood clots from forming. They are commonly used to treat or prevent conditions such as deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, and stroke. Between 2 and 3 million people take them each year.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse. A variety of factors, including certain medications, can cause ED. Some blood thinners (anticoagulants) have been reported to cause ED as a side effect, although this is not a common occurrence, and there is no evidence that a cause-and-effect relationship between blood thinners and erectile dysfunction exists.

What Are Blood Clots?

A blood clot is a solid mass of platelet fragments and proteins that forms when blood coagulates and clumps together. Blood clots are a physiological process that helps to stop bleeding when a blood vessel is damaged. However, blood clots can also form in the absence of an injury, and if they occur in the wrong place or at the wrong time, they can be dangerous.

There are two main types of blood clots:

  • Arterial clots: These clots form in the arteries, which are the blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood away from the heart to the rest of the body. Arterial clots can obstruct blood flow and cause serious health problems, such as heart attacks and strokes.
  • Venous clots: These clots form in the veins, which are the blood vessels that carry oxygen-depleted blood back to the heart. Venous clots can cause deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is a condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in the deep veins of the leg. DVT can be serious because the clot can travel to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs).

A variety of factors, including injury, surgery, cancer, pregnancy, and certain medications, can cause blood clots.

Close-up of red blood cells adn fibrin.

What Are Blood Thinners?

Blood thinners are medications that prevent unwanted blood clotting and therefore decrease the risk of blood clots. Blood thinners are typically classified as anticoagulants or antiplatelet medications. Anticoagulants target the coagulation pathway, and antiplatelet medications make it more difficult for platelets to stick together. Blood thinners don’t actually make your blood thinner; they prevent unnecessary clots from forming.

There are several types of blood thinners, including:1,2

  • Warfarin: This medication is taken orally and works by inhibiting the synthesis of vitamin K-dependent clotting factors. Warfarin has a faster onset of action, but more side effects and medication interactions than the NOACs. Warfarin also has a very narrow therapeutic range and therefore requires frequent blood tests for monitoring.
  • Heparin: This medication is usually given by injection and works by interacting with antithrombin III and thrombin in the coagulation pathway, which prevents the formation of blood clots.
  • Novel oral anticoagulants (NOACs): This group of medications includes dabigatran, rivaroxaban, apixaban, betrixabam, and edoxaban. They work by inhibiting specific clotting factors in the blood and are taken orally. NOACs are often used as an alternative to warfarin to prevent blood clots. NOACs work slower than warfarin but typically have fewer side effects.
  • Antiplatelet medications: Examples of antiplatelet medications include aspirin, P2Y12 receptor blockers, phosphodiesterase inhibitors, and GIIb/IIIa inhibitors.

What Blood Thinners Cause Erectile Dysfunction (ED)?

There is no evidence that blood thinners help or hurt erectile quality. If you are taking a blood thinner and experiencing ED, talk to your doctor to see if there is another potential cause.

What Are The Side Effects Of Blood Thinners?

Like all medications, blood thinners can cause side effects. The most common side effects of blood thinners include the following:

  • Bleeding: Blood thinners can increase the risk of bleeding, which can range from minor bleeding (such as nosebleeds or bleeding gums) to more serious bleeding (such as bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract or brain).
  • Bruising: Blood thinners can increase the risk of bruising, especially in people who are prone to bruising easily.
  • Anemia: Blood thinners can lead to anemia (low red blood cell count) due to blood loss.
  • Rash: Some people may develop a rash while taking blood thinners.
  • Other: Some blood thinners may cause headaches, nausea, or an allergic reaction.

It is important to note that the side effects of blood thinners can vary from person to person, and not everyone who takes these medications will experience side effects. If you are taking a blood thinner and experiencing any side effects, it is important to discuss them with your healthcare provider. They can help to determine the cause of the side effects and recommend the appropriate treatment.

A cut on a person's leg.

What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse. ED can be caused by a variety of factors, including physical, psychological, and lifestyle factors.

Physical causes of ED may include:

  • Cardiovascular disease: ED can be a warning sign of underlying cardiovascular diseases, such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) or high blood pressure. About half of men with damage to blood vessels in their heart also have ED.3
  • Diabetes: Diabetes can damage the blood vessels and nerves that are essential for the proper functioning of the penis.
  • Nerve damage: Nerve damage to nerves controlling blood flow or muscle contraction in the penis can cause ED.
  • Hormonal imbalances: Low testosterone levels or other hormones can contribute to ED.
  • Medications: Some medications, such as antidepressants, blood pressure medications, and drugs used to treat prostate cancer, can cause ED as a side effect.

Psychological causes of ED may include:

  • Stress: Stress, anxiety, and depression can all interfere with sexual function.
  • Relationship problems: ED can be a sign of underlying relationship issues, such as lack of communication or intimacy.

Lifestyle factors that may contribute to ED include:

  • Smoking: Smoking can damage the blood vessels and reduce blood flow to the penis.
  • Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to ED.
  • Obesity: Being overweight or having obesity can increase the risk of ED.
  • Lack of physical activity: Sedentary lifestyle can contribute to the development of ED.

It is important to note that ED can have multiple causes, and it is often a combination of physical, psychological, and lifestyle factors that contribute to the condition. If you are experiencing ED, it is important to discuss this with your healthcare provider. They can help determine the cause of your ED and recommend the appropriate treatment.

Pills and injections for ED.

What Can I Take For ED While On Blood Thinners?

Treatment options for ED may include:

  • Oral medications: Several oral medications are effective in treating ED, including sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), and vardenafil (Levitra). These medications work by increasing blood flow to the penis. However, they may not be safe for use in all individuals.
  • Penile injections: Penile injections involve injecting medication directly into the penis to produce an erection. This option may be suitable for individuals who cannot take oral medications due to underlying health conditions or interactions with other medications.
  • Penis pumps: Penis pumps involve using a device to create a vacuum around the penis, which can help to increase blood flow and produce an erection.
  • Penile implants: Penile implants involve surgically inserting a device into the penis to help achieve and maintain an erection. This option is generally reserved for individuals who have not responded to other treatments or who have underlying health conditions that make other treatments unsuitable.

There are many ED treatment options. While using blood thinners has not been shown to cause ED, your medication history is important when choosing an ED treatment option. An Invigor Medical treatment specialist will review your medical history and help you decide which ED treatment option would provide the most benefit with the fewest side effects.

Looking for treatment plans for sexual health? See how Invigor Medical can help today!

Can Blood Thinners Cause ED?
Author: Leann Poston, M.D.
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