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Vasc Health Risk Manag. 2006;2(4):447-55.

Sexual function in hypertensive patients receiving treatment.

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  • 1University of Southern California, The Heart Institute, Good Samaritan Hospital, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Keck School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA 90017-2395, USA.


In many forms of erectile dysfunction (ED), cardiovascular risk factors, in particular arterial hypertension, seem to be extremely common. While causes for ED are related to a broad spectrum of diseases, a generalized vascular process seems to be the underlying mechanism in many patients, which in a large portion of clinical cases involves endothelial dysfunction, ie, inadequate vasodilation in response to endothelium-dependent stimuli, both in the systemic vasculature and the penile arteries. Due to this close association of cardiovascular disease and ED, patients with ED should be evaluated as to whether they may suffer from cardiovascular risk factors including hypertension, cardiovascular disease or silent myocardial ischemia. On the other hand, cardiovascular patients, seeking treatment of ED, must be evaluated in order to decide whether treatment of ED or sexual activity can be recommended without significantly increased cardiac risk. The guideline from the first and second Princeton Consensus Conference may be applied in this context. While consequent treatment of cardiovascular risk factors should be accomplished in these patients, many antihypertensive drugs may worsen sexual function as a drug specific side-effect. Importantly, effective treatment for arterial hypertension should not be discontinued as hypertension itself may contribute to altered sexual functioning; to the contrary, alternative antihypertensive regimes should be administered with individually tailored drug regimes with minimal side-effects on sexual function. When phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors, such as sildenafil, tadalafil and vardenafil, are prescribed to hypertensive patients on antihypertensive drugs, these combinations of antihypertensive drugs and phosphodiesterase 5 are usually well tolerated, provided there is a baseline blood pressure of at least 90/60 mmHg. However, there are two exceptions: nitric oxide donors and alpha-adrenoceptor blockers. Any drug serving as a nitric oxide donor (nitrates) is absolutely contraindicated in combination with phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors, due to significant, potentially life threatening hypotension. Also, a-adrenoceptor blockers, such as doxazosin, terazosin and tamsulosin, should only be combined with phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors with special caution and close monitoring of blood pressure.

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