There are a number of possible side effects with atenolol, and impotence is one that has been reported occasionally. However, because impotence occurs so infrequently with atenolol but is very common within the general population, it is difficult to determine whether this sexual side effect is actually caused by the medication itself, other factors, or a combination of both. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider if you do experience impotence during treatment with atenolol.
Impotence is usually defined as a total inability to achieve erection, an inconsistent ability to do so, or a tendency to sustain only brief erections. Ultimately, impotence is the repeated inability to get or keep an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. Impotence is also known as erectile dysfunction (or ED for short).
What Does the Research Say About Atenolol and Impotence?
In clinical studies conducted before atenolol was approved, impotence was not a documented side effect. In the time since atenolol was approved, however, impotence has been reported occasionally in people taking the medicine. It is also reported occasionally with other beta blockers. But given how infrequently impotence is reported with atenolol and how common it is within the general population, it is difficult to tell whether the impotence is actually caused by the medication, other factors, or a combination of both.
An interesting study was conducted on whether being aware that impotence was a possible side effect would actually cause the sexual problem. The researchers found that people who knew that impotence was a side effect of atenolol were more likely to develop the problem. Their conclusion was that "the knowledge and prejudice about side effects of beta blockers can produce anxiety that may cause erectile dysfunction." Interestingly, this study also found that a placebo (a "sugar pill" with no active ingredients) was just as effective as sildenafil (Viagra®) for reversing impotence in these men taking atenolol.
Written by/reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last reviewed by: KristiMonson, PharmD;
List of references (click here):
Tenormin [package insert]. Wilmington, DE: AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP;2008 April.
Silvestri A, Galetta P, Cerquetani E, et al.Report of erectile dysfunction after therapy with beta-blockers is related to patient knowledge of side effects and is reversed by placebo. Eur Heart J 2003;24(21):1928-32.
eMedTV serves only as an informational resource. This site does not dispense medical advice or advice of any kind.
Site users seeking medical advice about their specific situation should consult with their own physician. Click