Sexual problems occur in males as well as in females. Drugs affecting the nervous and our endocrine or hormonal system may cause sexual dysfunction.
Drugs are among the most common yet unsuspected causes of sexual problems. They are responsible for nearly 25% cases of sexual dysfunction. Hence it is important to eliminate them as a cause of the problem before the patient is subjected to further tests and investigations.
The nervous as well as our endocrine or hormonal systems of a person have profound influence on sexual function.
Nervous system – The nervous system comprises of the brain, spinal cord and emerging nerves. Sexual arousal first takes place in our brain. Signals are then carried though various nerves to the genital organs. Sexual arousal may also occur due to physical stimulation of the genitals. In this case, the signals travel from the genitals to the spinal cord and then back to the genitals.
Signals are transmitted between nerves though the release of substances called neurotransmitters. Any alteration in these neurotransmitters could lead to sexual dysfunction. Drugs that affect brain, nerves or neurotransmitters can cause sexual problems. Some drugs acting on the brain inhibit sex by causing drowsiness.
Hormonal or Endocrine system – The body's sex hormones such as androgens, estrogen and testosterone have a strong influence on sexual function. Drugs that interfere with the effects of sex hormones cause sexual dysfunction.
Erection in males occurs due to accumulation of blood in the penis. Drugs that reduce blood pressure could reduce the pressure in the penis leading to loss of erection.
Sexual problems occur in both males and females. In males, they manifest as decreased sexual drive or libido, impotence (inability to attain or maintain an erection), impairment of ejaculation and / or loss of orgasm. Some patients complain of a prolonged painful erection called priapism. Females may complain of decreased libido and/or lack of orgasm. They may also complain of pain or spasms of vaginal wall during intercourse and/or lack of adequate lubrication. The problem is less studied in females than in males.
Though some drugs causing sexual dysfunction are mentioned here, a number of other drugs could also be responsible. Hence any patient complaining of sexual problems should not forget to list out the drugs he/she takes including over – the – counter drugs. Some of the drugs may cause problems if stopped suddenly; hence the patient is advised to consult his/ her health care professional before deciding to stop a drug.
- MacLean F, Lee A. Drug-induced sexual dysfunction and infertility. The Pharmaceutical Journal 1999; 262 (7047): 780-784