SexRx: Calcium Channel Blockers and Your Sex Life

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Brand Names of Calcium Channel Blockers include:

  • Amlodipine
  • Diltiazem
  • Felodipine
  • Flunarizine
  • Isradipine
  • Nicardipine
  • Nifedipine
  • Nimodipine
  • Nisoldipine
  • Verapamil

What They Are Most Often Prescribed For:

How They Work:

Calcium channel blockers (CCBs) affect the movement of calcium into the cells of your heart and blood vessels. As a result, CCBs relax blood vessels and reduce the heart's workload.

Possible Sexual Side Effects:

Compared to most other blood pressure drugs, CCBs seem to cause fewer sexual problems. However, several case reports have shown that CCBs have the potential to cause sexual dysfunction in both men and women. Specific effects include:
  • Decreased desire (in both men and women)
  • Decreased erectile rigidity, and in some cases impotence
  • Problems with ejaculation
  • Breast enlargement in men— gynecomastia
  • Abnormal discharge of milk from the nipple— galactorrhea

How They May Cause Sexual Problems

CCBs block calcium activity, which causes blood vessels to dilate and lowers blood pressure. The same mechanism that causes this decrease in blood vessel constriction can also decrease the contractions essential for penile rigidity and orgasmic sensation.Other possible mechanisms by which CCBs may affect sexual activity include:
  • Decreasing dopamine activity, which can lead to an increase in prolactin. Increased prolactin can have the following effects:
    • Reduced sex drive
    • Impotence
    • Galactorrhea
    • Infertility
  • Blocking the actions of excitatory peptides that are involved in genital sensation
Few sexual effects from CCBs have been reported in women with normal sexual functioning. However, for women who already have sexual difficulties, side effects of CCBs that indirectly affect sexual function may worsen the problem. For example, headache, flushing, swelling, bloating, lightheadedness, and weakness can dampen sexual desire and response for many women.

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