Erectile dysfunction

Updated 19 May 2015

Statins may improve erectile dysfunction

Statins, a cholesterol-lowering medication caused a significant increase in erectile function in men with erectile dysfunction.


Men with erectile dysfunction may see improvements in their sexual ability while taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, according to research.

In the study presented at the American College of Cardiology conference, experts performed a meta-analysis on 11 previous randomised, controlled studies on erectile dysfunction and statins.

In them, men answered survey questions that scored their sexual ability on a five-point scale.

Increase in erectile function

Among men who had
high cholesterol and erectile dysfunction – and who were taking statins – there was a statistically significant increase in erectile function, amounting to a 24.3% boost in their self-reported scores.

Read: Is high cholesterol good for some?

"The increase in erectile function scores with statins was approximately one-third to one-half of what has been reported with drugs like Viagra, Cialis or Levitra," said John Kostis, director of the Cardiovascular Institute and associate dean for
Cardiovascular Research at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

"It was larger than the reported effect of lifestyle modification," said Kostis, who was the lead investigator on the study.

The drugs may help erectile function by coaxing blood vessels into dilating properly and improving blood flow to the penis.

Statins a 'double-edged sword'

While statins are not recommended as a primary treatment for erectile dysfunction in patients with healthy cholesterol levels, the added benefit may encourage more men who need statins to take them.

Read: Are you at risk for erectile dysfunction?

However, he added that statins can also be a "double-edged sword", since previous research has shown they can decrease testosterone, which cuts back on sexual drive and energy.

The benefits of statins prevailed over the side effects in 10 of 11 studies reviewed, he said.

As many as 30 million men in the United States are believed to suffer from erectile dysfunction, which is more common in men over 40 and can be caused by heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, tobacco use, depression and stress.

Read more:

Erectile Dysfunction increases cardiovascular risk
Erectile dysfunction plus heart disease raises death risk


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Ask the Expert

Erectile Dysfunction Expert

Dr Kenny du Toit is a urologist practicing in Rondebosch, Cape Town. He is also consultant at Tygerberg hospital, where he is a senior lecturer at Stellenbosch University. He is a member of the South African Urological Association, Colleges of Medicine South Africa and Société Internationale d’Urologie. Board registered with both the HPCSA (Health professions council of South Africa) and GMC (General medical council UK). He has a keen interest in oncology, kidney stones and erectile dysfunction.

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