Arthritis Painkillers Link to ED
Men with arthritis who use the common painkillers NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to control joint and muscle pain could be doubling their risk of experiencing erectile dysfunction.
Two studies – one with 90,000 men in the US, and another smaller Finnish one with more than 1000 men, have both found a significant link between regular use of painkillers and a higher incidence of ED.
The US study found a 38 per cent increased risk of ED with regular use of NSAIDs, defined as three or more doses a day or use at least five days a week. The Finnish study found erectile dysfunction rates doubled amongst men using painkillers.
Arthritis was the main reason given by the men for taking pain medications, and men with arthritis were more likely to also have erectile dysfunction, even if they did not take common NSAIDs like ibuprofen or naproxen.
How Painkillers Affect ED
Researchers are still trying to understand what complicated mechanisms are behind the link between painkillers and increased erectile dysfunction, and it is likely to be related to more than one action.
Generally erectile dysfunction is associated with cardiovascular problems, increased inflammation, and decreased circulation. Researchers believed that through the use of NSAID's and a reduction in inflammation improvements would be seen.
Dr Steven Jacobsen, the senior researcher on the US study, says the findings were especially surprising because the researchers began the study thinking regular NSAID use might protect against ED. That’s because aspirin protects against heart disease and erectile dysfunction is common in heart patients.
One suggestion for the unexpected result was that while NSAID's improve blood flow there may be other pathways that these drugs inhibit, causing increased erectile problems.
For example some may depress the central nervous system and because the central nervous system plays an important part in getting successful erections, it could cause erectile dysfunction through this route. Other studies have suggested painkillers may reduce Nitric Oxide release which plays a big role in the getting strong erections.
Pain Killer Warning
The research linking painkillers to erectile dysfunction has wider implications for men’s health, say doctors who carried out the studies.
Dr Jacobsen says although the study did not directly prove that painkillers cause ED, the findings that NSAID use increases ED risk warrant further investigation since so many middle-aged and older men take aspirin every day to lower their risk for heart attack and stroke, said Dr Jacobsen.
And Dr R Shiri, the lead author of the Finnish study, suggests men who take these medications daily or frequently should be cautious, especially if they already have other risk factors for erectile dysfunction, such as diabetes or cigarette smoking.
Identifying Different Painkillers
The NSAID category of pain medications are sold in Australia under many different brand names. Ibufrofen, for example, is sold as Advil, Bugesic, Herron Blue, Nurofen, and Panafen amongst others. If you are interested in pursuing the link between painkillers and erectile dysfunction more fully, it will help to identify the medication you are using.
There are several authoritative websites which can help with this information. NPS MedicineWise is an independent non-profit site which has an outline of common pain medications to help consumers avoid allergic reactions or double doses. You will be able to identify your medication here.
Arthritis Australia also has an information sheet on NSAIDs offering comprehensive information on possible side effects, although it does not include details of the research linking NSAIDs and erectile dysfunction.
Alternative Arthritis Pain Relief
There are alternatives to NSAIDs available to help in managing pain from arthritis, sport injuries, or joint and muscle strain. Alternative medicine options like emu oil, herbal supplements, stress control and diet and exercise can all play a part.
· Emu Oil and Arthritis
Sportspeople around the world are discovering something Australia's Aborigine people have known for thousands of years – emu oil is an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory with the ability to penetrate the skin more deeply and effectively than most other oils.
A study by Dr. Peter Ghosh at Royal North Shore Hospital of Sydney, and Dr. Michael Whitehouse at University of Adelaide, using topically applied emu oil found it was effective in reducing joint pain and swelling in two weeks.
· Herbal Products and Arthritis
A combination of chrondoitin and glucosamine, Omega 3 and 6 fish oils, ginger, curcumin (turmeric) and a range of other herbs and supplements have shown promise for some people in managing joint and muscle pain.
Other herbs which can be helpful in improving erectile dysfunction include tribulus terrestris, horny goat weed, ginseng, maca, muira puama, damiana and tongkat ali.
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