If you're a smoker and you're having trouble in the bedroom, it's important to know that there is a definitive link between smoking and erectile dysfunction (ED). Numerous studies have linked smoking and erectile dysfunction, largely due to the negative effects smoking can have on your cardiovascular health.
As we mentioned in our list of risk factors for erectile dysfunction, smoking can cause cause erectile dysfunction in younger men as well as older men, making it a major risk no matter your age.
While a cigarette or cigar every now and then is unlikely to cause erectile dysfunction, regular smoking could seriously affect your sexual performance. In this guide, we’ll look at the relationship between smoking and erectile dysfunction, as well as the best solutions if you’re a smoker affected by ED.
How Smoking Can Cause Erectile Dysfunction
Smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipe tobacco on a regular basis can damage your blood vessels, reducing arterial blood flow throughout your body. The key culprit is nicotine, which is a known vasoconstrictor (a type of chemical that reduces blood flow throughout the body).
This can be seriously damaging to your sexual performance, as erections are dependent on a mix of signaling from your brain and a reliable level of blood supply through the arteries of the penis.
When you feel sexually aroused, your brain sends a signal to nerves in the penis. This triggers the opening of arteries, increasing blood flow to the corpus cavernosum—the spongy tissue of the penis that fills and hardens to form an erection.
Reduced blood flow from smoking or other unhealthy habits can make it much more difficult to achieve an erection, leaving you with a weak erection or no physical response at all to sexual arousal.
Scientific research shows that the severity of erectile dysfunction in smokers is closely linked to their level of exposure to cigarette smoke. It also appears to show that quitting smoking could help reduce and even eliminate ED symptoms.
In one study from 2004, smokers and ex-smokers with erectile dysfunction were monitored for ongoing ED over the course of one year. The ex-smokers experienced a measurable reduction in erectile dysfunction symptoms, with an improvement in approximately 25% of study participants.
The smokers, on the other hand, saw no improvement—all that had erectile dysfunction at the beginning of the study also had it at the end. In fact, 6.8% of the smokers that took part in the study experienced a worsening of their erectile dysfunction symptoms over the study, compared to just 2.5% of non-smokers.
Other studies show similar results. A review of erectile dysfunction studies concluded that men who smoke have a higher risk of developing erectile dysfunction than non-smokers, regardless of their age.
Add the fact that smoking is linked to sperm damage and other fertility issues into the equation and it’s clear that cigarettes aren’t really compatible with sexual and reproductive health.
Solutions and Treatment Options for Smokers With ED
If you have erectile dysfunction as a result of cigarette smoking, the best course of action—and we know this is going to sting a little bit—is to quit smoking. Study data shows that men who quit smoking can, and very often do, experience improvements in their sexual performance and a reduction in erectile dysfunction symptoms.
Because a large part of the erectile dysfunction caused by cigarettes is a result of the nicotine content, switching to a nicotine patch might not be entirely effective in preventing ED. A study from 2008 even links isolated nicotine (in the form of chewing gum) to erectile dysfunction.
For some smokers, gradually reducing the amount of cigarettes you smoke can be enough to produce a noticeable improvement in your erection quality and sexual performance.
In some cases, quitting smoking might not be enough to restore full erectile function. In this case, erectile dysfunction drugs such as sildenafil, vardenafil and tadalafil can be effective treatments for helping you maintain an erection and improve your sexual experience.
However, because smoking is closely linked with heart disease, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular conditions that can cause issues when combined with ED medication, it’s best to talk to your doctor before considering these drugs.
Finally, taking up healthy habits such as exercise (particularly aerobic exercise, which lowers blood pressure and is linked to improved sexual health) while quitting can help you stay more focused on your goals and avoid cravings, distractions and setbacks.
Important Safety Information
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION
Do not take Sildenafil (sildenafil citrate) if you:
- take any medicines called nitrates, often prescribed for chest pain, or guanylate cyclase stimulators like Adempas (riociguat) for pulmonary hypertension. Your blood pressure could drop to an unsafe level
are allergic to sildenafil, as contained in Sildenafil and REVATIO, or any of the ingredients in Sildenafil
Discuss your health with your doctor to ensure that you are healthy enough for sex. If you experience chest pain, dizziness, or nausea during sex, seek immediate medical help
Sildenafil can cause serious side effects. Rarely reported side effects include:
- an erection that will not go away (priapism). If you have an erection that lasts more than 4 hours, get medical help right away. If it is not treated right away, priapism can permanently damage your penis
- sudden vision loss in one or both eyes. Sudden vision loss in one or both eyes can be a sign of a serious eye problem called non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION). Stop taking Sildenafil and call your healthcare provider right away if you have any sudden vision loss
sudden hearing decrease or hearing loss. Some people may also have ringing in their ears (tinnitus) or dizziness. If you have these symptoms, stop taking Sildenafil and contact a doctor right away
Before you take Sildenafil, tell your healthcare provider if you:
- have or have had heart problems such as a heart attack, irregular heartbeat, angina, chest pain, narrowing of the aortic valve, or heart failure
- have had heart surgery within the last 6 months
- have pulmonary hypertension
- have had a stroke
- have low blood pressure, or high blood pressure that is not controlled
- have a deformed penis shape
- have had an erection that lasted for more than 4 hours
- have problems with your blood cells such as sickle cell anemia, multiple myeloma, or leukemia
- have retinitis pigmentosa, a rare genetic (runs in families) eye disease
- have ever had severe vision loss, including an eye problem called NAION
- have bleeding problems
- have or have had stomach ulcers
- have liver problems
have kidney problems or are having kidney dialysis have any other medical conditions
Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
Sildenafil may affect the way other medicines work, and other medicines may affect the way Sildenafil works, causing side effects. Especially tell your healthcare provider if you take any of the following:
- medicines called nitrates
- medicines called guanylate cyclase stimulators such as Adempas (riociguat)
- medicines called alpha-blockers such as Hytrin (terazosin HCl), Flomax (tamsulosin HCl), Cardura (doxazosin mesylate), Minipress (prazosin HCl), Uroxatral (alfuzosin HCl), Jalyn (dutasteride and tamsulosin HCl), or Rapaflo (silodosin). Alpha-blockers are sometimes prescribed for prostate problems or high blood pressure. In some patients, the use of Sildenafil with alpha-blockers can lead to a drop in blood pressure or to fainting
- medicines called HIV protease inhibitors, such as ritonavir (Norvir), indinavir sulfate (Crixivan), saquinavir (Fortovase or Invirase), or atazanavir sulfate (Reyataz)
- some types of oral antifungal medicines, such as ketoconazole (Nizoral) and itraconazole (Sporanox)
- some types of antibiotics, such as clarithromycin (Biaxin), telithromycin (Ketek), or erythromycin
- other medicines that treat high blood pressure
- other medicines or treatments for ED
Sildenafil contains sildenafil, which is the same medicine found in another drug called REVATIO. REVATIO is used to treat a rare disease called pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Sildenafil should not be used with REVATIO or with other PAH treatments containing sildenafil or any other PDE5 inhibitors (such as Adcirca tadalafil)
Sildenafil does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
The most common side effects of Sildenafil: headache; flushing; upset stomach; abnormal vision, such as changes in color vision (such as having a blue color tinge) and blurred vision; stuffy or runny nose; back pain; muscle pain; nausea; dizziness; rash.
Sildenafil (sildenafil citrate) is prescription medicine used to treat erectile dysfunction (ED).
Sildenafil is not for women or children.