Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 9/22/2021
Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is a common form of sexual dysfunction that affects an estimated 30 million men in the United States.
A diverse range of different factors can cause or contribute to ED, including several medications used to treat common conditions.
One medication that’s often linked to sexual dysfunction is gabapentin, a prescription drug that’s used to prevent and control seizures.
If you’re prescribed gabapentin, it’s important to understand how this medication may affect your sexual performance, as well as the options that are available to you to manage ED and maintain an enjoyable, fulfilling sex life.
We’ve discussed this topic below and looked at the latest research on the relationship between gabapentin and ED.
Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant used to treat seizures in people with epilepsy. It’s also used to treat restless leg syndrome (RLS) and as a pain reliever for people with postherpetic neuralgia, a form of nerve and skin pain that can develop as a complication of shingles.
Like many other medications, gabapentin is used off-label to treat a large range of conditions, including fibromyalgia, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), alcohol withdrawal, depression and other mood disorders, migraines, insomnia and others.
As a treatment for seizures, gabapentin works by acting on neurotransmitters — chemicals that transmit messengers between your nerve cells. Research shows that it increases the amount of serotonin — a neurotransmitter that promotes happiness and wellbeing — in your body.
Gabapentin is available as a capsule, tablet or oral solution. It’s marketed under several brand names, including Neurontin®, Gralise® and Horizant®.
Erectile dysfunction is a condition in which you may find it difficult to get or maintain an erection that’s firm enough to have penetrative sex.
ED can vary in severity. Some men with ED are able to develop an erection, but find it difficult to maintain their erection for long enough to have sex.
Others may be able to get an erection, but not on a consistent enough basis to have sex when they want to.
Men with severe ED may not be able to get an erection at any time, even with physical or visual stimulation.
Erectile dysfunction can affect men of all ages and backgrounds. However, it’s more common in older men and men who:
Have certain physical health conditions or diseases, such as heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), atherosclerosis (clogged arteries) or chronic kidney disease.
Have physical injuries that affect blood flow or nerve function, especially to the penis and surrounding area.
Suffer from psychological or emotional issues, such as sexual performance anxiety, low self-esteem, depression or stress.
Take certain medications, such as blood pressure medications, antidepressants and/or tranquilizers.
Engage in certain habits and behaviors, such as smoking, using illicit drugs or drinking lots of alcohol.
Our guide to erectile dysfunction goes into more detail about the most common symptoms and causes of ED.
If you’ve started to experience ED after using gabapentin, you’re not alone. Research suggests that several drugs used to treat epilepsy, including gabapentin, can cause sexual dysfunction in men.
In a 2016 review published in the journal Expert Opinion on Drug Safety, researchers noted that gabapentin and similar medications can cause erectile dysfunction, ejaculatory dysfunction and changes in sexual desire, such as hyposexuality and hypersexuality.
Other research, like this small study, shows that gabapentin may affect the ability to reach orgasm, particularly in older men.
These effects — difficulty getting an erection, ejaculating or sudden changes in sexual desire — are sometimes referred to as gabapentin-induced sexual dysfunction.
In addition to sexual dysfunction, gabapentin may also cause other side effects. Common side effects of gabapentin include:
Somnolence (drowsiness, lethargy and a strong desire to sleep)
Peripheral edema (swelling of the hands and/or lower legs)
Gabapentin may also cause ataxia (reduced muscle control that can affect balance, speech and coordination), fatigue, nystagmus (repetitive, uncontrolled eye movements), fever, nausea and/or vomiting, and hostility. There is some evidence to suggest gabapentin can cause hair loss.
It’s important to inform your healthcare provider if you experience any severe or persistent side effects from gabapentin.
If you experience erectile dysfunction after starting treatment with gabapentin, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider.
You may be able to treat gabapentin-induced erectile dysfunction by adjusting your gabapentin dosage, switching to a different type of epilepsy medication or by using medication to treat and manage your ED.
If it’s safe for you to do so, your healthcare provider may advise you to switch from gabapentin to a different medication for epilepsy.
Not all antiepileptic drugs cause sexual dysfunction. Some research suggests that other drugs for epilepsy, such as oxcarbazepine, lamotrigine or levetiracetam, may improve sexual function in people who experience ED from gabapentin.
Make sure not to adjust your dosage of gabapentin or stop using your medication without first talking to your healthcare provider.
These medications, which are referred to as PDE5 inhibitors, work by increasing blood flow to your penis.
They’re easy to use before sex and provide reliable effects that can last for several hours at a time.
Although there are currently no known interactions between gabapentin and these medications, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before using them together.
Research shows that several antiepileptic medications can cause erectile dysfunction, including gabapentin.
These medications may also cause other sexual performance issues, including changes in your level of sexual desire and/or difficulty ejaculating.
If you notice ED after using gabapentin, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider. You may be able to improve your sexual function by adjusting your dosage, switching medications, or using a PDE5 inhibitor medication such as sildenafil to improve your erections.