ED medications are in a class of drugs called phosphodiesterase inhibitors, which promote smooth muscle relaxation, vasodilation, and bronchodilation.1 Because of their wide range of applications, ED medications can be used to treat the following conditions:
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
COPD is a group of diseases that causes progressive deterioration of lung tissue and blocked airways, and is found most commonly in people who have a history of smoking.2 COPD includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, which damage the lungs by reducing elasticity and creating constant inflammation.3
ED medications are a relatively new treatment for COPD.4 In addition to promoting bronchodilation and reducing inflammation, these drugs regulate smooth muscle in order to improve lung capacity and function.5
Pulmonary Hypertension (PH)
PH is characterized by elevated pressure in the pulmonary arteries, resulting in enlarged heart tissue and narrowed arteries that restrict blood flow and reduce oxygen circulation.6 PH cannot be cured, but treatment can help reduce symptoms and prevent heart failure.7
Treating PH with ED medications increases blood circulation in the lungs and right side of the heart by promoting vasodilation and, in some cases, reversing damage in the heart and lungs.8 One study found that sildenafil (Viagra) improved exercise capacity and significantly reduced cardiac hypertrophy in patients with chronic PH.9
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)
BPH is the benign enlargement of the prostate gland and surrounding tissues, and it can impact quality of life by interfering with bladder function.10 Common BPH symptoms include frequent urination, incomplete emptying, waking often at night to urinate, and urgency before urinating.11
In addition to promoting vasodilation, ED medications also work to reduce the inflammation responsible for prostate enlargement.12 Additionally, these drugs have been found to promote smooth muscle regulation in order to control prostate growth.13
Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)
CHF arises from the inability of the heart to pump enough blood to meet the body’s demands, and is caused by cardiomyopathy, improper pumping mechanisms, or failure of the heart to fill completely.14
ED medications have successfully treated the heart chamber enlargement characteristic of cardiomyopathy by restoring contractility and stimulating vasodilation in cardiac muscle tissue.15 The phosphodiesterase inhibition from ED medication increases cardiac output, relaxes blood vessels, and reduces hypertrophy.16
ED medications have also been used to treat clotting disorders, eczema, psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, Raynaud’s disease, and neonatal apnea by improving circulation, lowering blood pressure, and promoting vasodilation.17
The benefits of ED medications extend beyond sexual health, as they can be used to treat disorders of the heart, lungs, prostate, blood, and skin. A better understanding of ED and its medical therapies can help physicians treat more than just sexual dysfunction. Doctors who are well-versed in the clinical significance of ED are better-prepared to help their patients achieve a greater state of health.
- Padda, I.S. & Tripp, J. (2022, June 29). Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors. In StatPearls [Internet]. Retrieved September 13, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559276/
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) (2022, April 8). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/copd/index.html#:~:text=Chronic%20obstructive%20pulmonary%20disease%2C%20or,Americans%20who%20have%20this%20disease.
- What Is COPD? (2022, March 24). National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/copd
- Janjua, S., Furtescue, R., Poole, P. (2020). Phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2020(5), CD002309.
- Phillips, J.E. (2020). Inhaled Phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4) Inhibitors for Inflammatory Respiratory Diseases. Frontiers in Pharmacology 11(259).
- Pulmonary Hypertension (2019, December 3). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/pulmonary_hypertension.htm
- Pulmonary Hypertension. (2020, January 23). National Health Service. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pulmonary-hypertension/#:~:text=Pulmonary%20hypertension%20cannot%20be%20cured,started%20as%20soon%20as%20possible.
- Phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors (n.d.). Pulmonary Hypertension Association. https://www.phauk.org/treatment-for-pulmonary-hypertension/oral-therapies/phosphodiesterase-5-inhibitors/#:~:text=Phosphodiesterase%205%20(PDE%205)%20inhibitors,to%20the%20heart%20and%20lungs.
- Wilkins, M.R., Wharton, J., Grimminger, F, Ghofrani, H.A. (2008). Phosphodiesterase inhibitors for the treatment of pulmonary hypertension. European Respiratory Journal 32(4), 198-209.
- Prostate Enlargement (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia). (2014, September). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/prostate-problems/prostate-enlargement-benign-prostatic-hyperplasia
- Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) (2021, September). Urology Care Foundation. https://www.urologyhealth.org/urology-a-z/b/benign-prostatic-hyperplasia-(bph)
- Peixoto, C.A. & dos Santos Gomes, F.O. (2015). The role of phosphodiesterase-5 in prostatic inflammation: a review. Journal of Inflammation (London) 12(54).
- Wang, C.Y. (2010). Phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors and benign prostatic hyperplasia. Current Opinion in Urology 20(1), 49-54.
- Heart Failure (2022, March 24). National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/heart-failure#:~:text=Heart%20failure%2C%20also%20known%20as,too%20weak%20to%20pump%20properly.
- Movesian, M.A. & Kukreja, R.C. (2011). Phosphodiesterase Inhibition in Heart Failure. In Francis, S., Conti, M., Houslay, M. (eds) Phosphodiesterases as Drug Targets: Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology, Volume 204. Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-17969-3_10
- Leroy, J. & Fischmeister, R. (2018). Inhibit a Phosphodiesterase to Treat Heart Failure? Circulation 138, 2003-2006.
- Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors. (2022, June 8). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/23211-phosphodiesterase-inhibitors