Washington: Regular intake of prescription painkillers, also known as opioids, is linked to a higher risk of erectile dysfunction (ED) in men, a new study has revealed.
The researchers included more than 11,000 men with back pain in the study and examined their health records to find out if men taking prescription painkillers were more likely to also receive prescriptions for testosterone replacement or ED medications.
More than 19 percent of men who took high-dose opioids for at least four months also received ED prescriptions; while fewer than 7 percent of men who did not take opioids received ED prescriptions.
In the study, men over 60 were much more likely to receive ED prescriptions, but even after researchers adjusted for age and other factors, men taking high-dose opioids were still 50 percent more likely to receive ED prescriptions than men who did not take prescription painkillers.
"Men who take opioid pain medications for an extended period of time have the highest risk of ED," lead author Richard A. Deyo, MD, MPH, investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research and Professor of Evidence-based Family Medicine at Oregon Health and Science University, said.
"This doesn`t mean that these medications cause ED, but the association is something patients and clinicians should be aware of when deciding if opioids should be used to treat back pain." Deyo added.
The researchers also found that age was the factor most significantly associated with receiving ED prescriptions.
Men 60 to 69 were 14 times more likely to receive prescriptions for ED medication than men 18 to 29.
Depression, other health conditions (besides back pain), and use of sedative hypnotics like benzodiazepines also increased the likelihood that men would receive ED prescriptions.
The study is published online in the journal Spine.