The Association Between Atrial Fibrillation and Erectile Function

July 12, 2022

Doctor holds up clipboard with words "Erectile Dysfunction" as he discusses diagnosis related to atrial fibrillation

For some, atrial fibrillation (Afib) may seem to be trivial. However, its effects are wide-ranging and extend beyond the five times increased risk of stroke and heart attack. Afib can have seemingly unrelated lifestyle effects even in its mild and paroxysmal forms. One of these is how Afib may cause erectile dysfunction or ED.

ED is a common problem, especially as patients age. Typically, it is treated with any number of medications you have likely seen advertised on TV and elsewhere. However, while it is easy and convenient to prescribe medication for ED, there are times when further investigation is necessary to find the root cause of the dysfunction.

One such cause is Afib since erectile function relies heavily on blood flow.

It is important to understand that Afib interrupts the normal flow of blood by causing irregular and fast heartbeats. The heart cannot pump blood as efficiently as before, and the extremities tend to suffer most as a result. This can include poor blood flow to the genital area.

What the Studies Say

A 2008 review of five observational studies showed that about 57% of atrial fibrillation patients also experienced erectile dysfunction.1 It is also important to remember that erectile dysfunction may be a precursor to heart disease and should not be taken lightly or ignored. Here too, we must remember that if a patient cannot achieve or maintain an erection, there may exist a blood flow issue stemming from a cardiovascular problem.

Afib can also cause chronic fatigue in many patients. This may reduce their willingness and ability to pursue the sex life that they would otherwise want

Beyond a Blood Flow Problem

But Afib does not necessarily have to directly cause ED to put a damper on a man’s sex life. If a man has experienced a significant Afib episode during sex in the past, he may wish to stay away from sexual contact to avoid these ramifications. Further, some medications associated with Afib treatment can also cause sexual side effects.

Other Potential Causes of ED

Of course, Afib is not always the cause of ED. There are many other potential causes of ED, including metabolic disorders, which can, in turn, lead to Afib and other cardiovascular diseases. Ultimately, getting your Afib under control through lifestyle change, medications, or interventional procedures like cardiac catheter ablation is essential regardless of the cooccurrence of ED. However, some patients may find that the improved blood flow associated with successful treatment of Afib at least partially restores their erectile function.

In any case, if you have been diagnosed with Afib, you should be evaluated by your cardiac electrophysiologist. At this point, a discussion about ED can be had. This is not a concern that should be kept to yourself for fear of embarrassment. For more information about treating atrial fibrillation, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Banker at our Newport Beach, CA office.

1Chokesuwattanaskul R, Thongprayoon C, Pachariyanon P, Sharma K, Ungprasert P, Bathini T, Cheungpasitporn W. Erectile dysfunction and atrial fibrillation: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Urol. 2018 Aug;25(8):752-757. doi: 10.1111/iju.13725. Epub 2018 Jul 16. PMID: 30014525.