The erectile-endothelial dysfunction nexus: new opportunities for cardiovascular risk prevention

Nat Clin Pract Cardiovasc Med. 2007 May;4(5):263-73. doi: 10.1038/ncpcardio0861.


Erectile and endothelial dysfunction are common in individuals with multiple cardiovascular risk factors and are longitudinal predictors of cardiovascular events. The pathogenesis of both endothelial and erectile dysfunction is intimately linked through increased expression and activation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase, and the subsequent physiological actions of nitric oxide. Endothelial production of nitric oxide by endothelial nitric oxide synthase in the corpus cavernosum is involved in the maintenance of penile erection. Erectile dysfunction can be detected clinically using systematic questioning and could potentially be employed as an independent predictor of cardiovascular risk to target treatment of cardiovascular risk factors. Both erectile and endothelial dysfunction respond to lifestyle modifications, particularly in individuals with the metabolic syndrome. Drugs that improve endothelial dysfunction can also improve erectile dysfunction, but responses are not always concordant. Phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors, however, are powerful agents that commonly improve erectile and endothelial dysfunction, with potential cardiac applications. The recent Princeton consensus requires more extensive implementation and evaluation in clinical practice. The judicious diagnosis of erectile dysfunction, nevertheless, provides a unique opportunity for the prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 3',5'-Cyclic-GMP Phosphodiesterases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / prevention & control
  • Cyclic Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases, Type 5
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Impotence, Vasculogenic* / complications
  • Impotence, Vasculogenic* / drug therapy
  • Impotence, Vasculogenic* / metabolism
  • Male
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology*
  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors


  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • 3',5'-Cyclic-GMP Phosphodiesterases
  • Cyclic Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases, Type 5
  • PDE5A protein, human