Erectile dysfunction (ED) can affect men of any age, and the most frequent causes are well known. It is not a natural consequence of ageing, although greater numbers of older than younger men are diagnosed with ED. This is because the most common problems such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol tend to affect older men more often.

However, there are some less well-known reasons that men experience ED. Sometimes, the causes can be psychological, such as stress, depression, tiredness, or to do with relationship problems. In men under 40, these are more likely to be the root of the problem than a physical cause.

Other causes include medications, some of which men can take on a daily basis without realising that they interfere with sexual function. Here are some common culprits.


If you suffer from hayfever or pet hair allergies, you may take antihistamines on a regular basis to calm the eye irritation, sneezing, and irritated nasal passages that the pollen or spores cause. They can also be taken to control travel sickness or relieve heartburn.

They work by suppressing histamine, which triggers the allergic reaction. However, histamine is also responsible for the neurotransmitters that aid sexual response and arousal. Therefore, men who use antihistamines on a regular basis may notice that they are not able to last as long in bed as they used to, or are just not in the mood for sex at all.

It is thought that only certain types of antihistamines have this effect, so if you suspect it may be causing a problem, switch up your medication, or take advice from a pharmacist.

Blood pressure medication

According to Harvard Medical School, around 25% of all ED cases are caused by blood pressure medication. Their website advises that certain types of medication, including thiazide diuretics, loop diuretics, and beta-blockers, are known to decrease blood flow to the penis. This makes it less easy to get a healthy erection.

However, high blood pressure is often a sign of ED, so it’s not advisable to stop taking the medication. Instead, talk to your doctor about alternatives you can try. High blood pressure is also associated with being overweight and smoking, which are also common triggers for ED.

It is likely that if you have been referred to a doctor because of high blood pressure, they will recommend diet and lifestyle changes. These include eating more fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, cutting back on fatty fried foods and sugar, and reducing your alcohol intake. Regular exercise is also recommended to strengthen the heart, which improves your circulation, and can boost the blood flow to the penis.


Different types of antidepressants work in different ways. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressants are thought to have the worst impact on sexual function. If you are experiencing difficulty, talk to your doctor about alternatives, or take a short break from the medication when you want to be sexually active.

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