Gabapentin and Erectile Dysfunction: What's the Link?

Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is a common form of sexual dysfunction that affects an estimated 30 million men in the United States.

A diverse range of different factors can cause or contribute to ED, including several medications used to treat common medical conditions. 

One medication that’s often linked to sexual dysfunction is gabapentin, a prescription drug that’s used to prevent and control seizures.

 If you’re prescribed gabapentin, it’s important to understand how this medication may affect your sexual performance, as well as the options that are available to you to manage ED and maintain an enjoyable, fulfilling sex life.

We’ve discussed this topic below and looked at the latest research on the relationship between gabapentin and ED. 

TL;DR: Does Gabapentin Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

  • Research suggests that several medications for seizures can cause or worsen erectile dysfunction, including gabapentin. 

  • The link between gabapentin and erectile dysfunction may be caused by gabapentin’s effects on neurotransmitters. 

  • Gabapentin is also associated with other sexual side effects, such as difficulty reaching orgasm, although the science on this link isn’t totally clear.

  • Some men report changes in their sex drive, such as an increased or decreased level of interest in sex, after starting treatment with gabapentin. 

  • ED from gabapentin isn’t permanent. It’s usually possible to treat this issue by changing the way you use your medication, or by using a form of treatment for ED.

What is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant used to treat seizures in people with epilepsy. It’s also used to treat restless leg syndrome (RLS) and as a pain reliever for people with postherpetic neuralgia, a form of nerve and skin pain that can develop as a complication of shingles.

Like many other medications, gabapentin is used off-label to treat a large range of conditions, including fibromyalgia, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), alcohol withdrawal, depression and other mood disorders, migraines, insomnia and others.

As a treatment for seizures, gabapentin works by acting on neurotransmitters — chemicals that transmit messengers between your nerve cells. Research shows that it increases the levels of serotonin — a neurotransmitter that promotes happiness and well-being — in your body.

Gabapentin is available as a capsule, tablet or oral solution. It’s marketed under several brand names, including Neurontin®, Gralise® and Horizant®.

Does Gabapentin Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

Healthy, consistent erections rely on a combination of factors, including sexual arousal, proper nerve function and adequate blood flow.

When you feel sexually aroused, blood flows to your penis, allowing the erectile tissue to grow larger and firmer than normal.

Erectile dysfunction can occur when your nervous system functions poorly, affecting the ability for blood to flow properly to your penis. 

It can also occur when medical conditions or medications affect your nerve function, blood flow, level of interest in sex or general sexual functioning.

If you’ve started to experience ED after using gabapentin, you’re not alone. Research suggests that several drugs used to treat epilepsy, including gabapentin, can cause sexual dysfunction in men. 

In a 2016 review published in the journal Expert Opinion on Drug Safety, researchers noted that gabapentin and similar medications can cause erectile dysfunction, ejaculatory dysfunction and changes in sexual desire, such as hyposexuality and hypersexuality.

Other research, including this small-scale study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Pharmacotherapy, shows that gabapentin may affect the ability to reach orgasm, particularly in older men.

These effects — difficulty getting an erection, ejaculating or sudden changes in sexual desire — are sometimes referred to as gabapentin-induced sexual dysfunction.

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Is Gabapentin Erectile Dysfunction Permanent?

Dealing with sexual side effects from any medication can be stressful. If you’ve developed ED from gabapentin or a similar medication, it’s far from uncommon to panic and assume that the change in your sexual function is permanent.

Currently, there’s no scientific evidence to suggest that gabapentin causes permanent sexual performance issues such as erectile dysfunction. 

Although data on erectile function after stopping treatment with gabapentin is limited, research shows that sexual dysfunction in patients prescribed gabapentin generally stops with treatment ends.

For example, a report on adults with gabapentin-induced anorgasmia (orgasmic dysfunction that occurred after starting treatment with gabapentin) found that the ability to orgasm returned after the participants stopped treatment with gabapentin. 

Other research has found that sexual side effects from gabapentin also come to an end upon discontinuation of medication.

Gabapentin has a half-life of approximately five to seven hours. On average, it takes two days for your body to completely eliminate gabapentin. 

This means that if you have erectile dysfunction from gabapentin, stopping your medication — something you should only do with your healthcare provider’s guidance — should quickly bring an end to any gabapentin sexual side effects such as ED. 

Other Side Effects of Gabapentin

In addition to sexual dysfunction, gabapentin may also cause other side effects. Common side effects of gabapentin include:

  • Dizziness

  • Somnolence (drowsiness, lethargy and a strong desire to sleep)

  • Peripheral edema (swelling of the hands and/or lower legs)

Gabapentin may also cause ataxia (reduced muscle control that could affect balance, speech and coordination), fatigue, nystagmus (repetitive, uncontrolled eye movements), fever, hostile behavior, and nausea and/or vomiting.

Does gabapentin cause hair loss? There is limited evidence to suggest that gabapentin can cause hair loss. However, reports of hair loss from gabapentin appear to be temporary hair shedding, not the permanent recession or thinning that can occur from male pattern baldness

Gabapentin side effects in men may vary in severity. It’s important to talk with your healthcare provider if you develop any severe, persistent or bothersome side effects from gabapentin. 

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How to Treat Gabapentin-Induced ED

If you experience erectile dysfunction after starting treatment with gabapentin, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider. 

You may be able to treat gabapentin-induced erectile dysfunction by adjusting your gabapentin dosage, switching to a different type of epilepsy medication or by using medication to treat and manage your ED.

Switch to a Different Anticonvulsant

Sometimes, switching to a different anticonvulsant medication can stop sexual side effects like erectile dysfunction, or at least make them less severe. 

If it’s safe for you to do so, your healthcare provider may advise you to switch from gabapentin to a different medication for epilepsy. 

Not all antiepileptic drugs cause sexual dysfunction. Some research suggests that other drugs for epilepsy, such as oxcarbazepine, lamotrigine or levetiracetam, may improve sexual function in people with noticeable sex-related symptoms.

Make sure not to adjust your dosage of gabapentin or stop using your medication without first talking to your healthcare provider. 

Talk to Your Healthcare Provider About ED Medication

Several medications can treat erectile dysfunction, including sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra®), tadalafil (Cialis®), vardenafil (Levitra®) and avanafil (Stendra®). 

These medications, which are referred to as PDE5 inhibitors, work by increasing blood flow to your penis. This can make it easier to develop and maintain an erection when you’re sexually aroused and stimulated. 

PDE5 inhibitor medications are easy to use before sex and provide reliable effects that can last for several hours at a time. 

Some medications, such as tadalafil, can even last for longer than one day, making them ideal as “weekend” treatments for ED.

Although there are currently no known interactions between gabapentin and these medications, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before using them together. 

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Take Steps to Improve Your General Health

A variety of different physical and psychological health issues can cause or contribute to erectile dysfunction. 

If you take gabapentin and have ED, it may not be caused solely by your medication. A range of other issues may also contribute to your erectile dysfunction, either by limiting blood flow to your penis or affecting your response to sexual stimulation.

Physical causes of ED include:

  • Heart disease

  • Atherosclerosis (clogged arteries)

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

  • Physical injuries to your penis

  • Chronic kidney disease

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Peyronie’s disease

  • Type 2 diabetes

ED can also occur because of medications other than gabapentin, such as high blood pressure medications, antidepressants, appetite suppressants, ulcer treatments, antiandrogen drugs and prescription medications for insomnia.

Some habits, such as smoking, drinking alcohol excessively, being overweight, getting very little or no exercise, and using illicit drugs are also common risk factors for erectile dysfunction.

Other causes of ED include:

  • Depression

  • Sexual performance anxiety

  • Feelings of guilt about sex

  • Chronic or severe stress

  • Low self-esteem

If you have a physical or mental health issue that could cause or contribute to ED, it’s important to treat it as effectively as possible. You can do this by talking to your healthcare provider about treatment options.

It’s also important to have a healthy lifestyle. Try to keep yourself physically active, eat a healthy diet, avoid drinking alcohol and take other steps to improve your physical well-being.

Our guide to maintaining an erection shares a variety of evidence-based tips that you can use to improve your physical and mental health for better erections and sexual function. 

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The Connection Between Gabapentin and Erectile Dysfunction

Scientific research shows a clear relationship between gabapentin and erectile dysfunction, as well as similar links between other antiepileptic medications and ED.

These medications may also cause other sexual performance issues, including changes in your level of sexual desire and/or difficulty ejaculating.

If you notice ED after taking gabapentin, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider. You may be able to improve your sexual function by adjusting your dosage, switching medications or making changes to your habits and daily life. 

You might also benefit from using ED medication such as sildenafil to make getting and keeping an erection easier. 

Worried about ED? You can find out more about dealing with erectile dysfunction in our guide to the most common ED treatments and drugs

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment or medication.

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