COVID-19 and Erectile Dysfunction: 6 Factors
Common COVID-19 symptoms include breathing difficulties, extreme fatigue, and the loss of taste or smell, with possible long-term impacts on a person’s health.
More recently, researchers have also found troubling links between COVID-19 and erectile dysfunction. For example, researchers estimate that ED is nearly six times as likely in men who’ve had COVID-19. While this statistic is concerning, let’s explain the main factors putting men at risk of ED following COVID.
Factor 1: Cardiovascular Problems
Men may suffer from ED as an early sign of heart disease, while COVID-19 research also shows risks to heart health when the virus causes inflammation to the heart muscle, blood vessels, and veins.
COVID-19 can also lead to endothelial dysfunction, making the inner lining of blood vessels constrict instead of dilating and contracting for proper blood flow. As a result, blood cannot pump correctly throughout the body. This dysfunction may affect the tissues within the penis, making it difficult for men to get or maintain an erection.
A study in the World Journal of Men’s Health describes two men recovering from COVID-19 who treated their ED with penile prosthesis surgery. Both men had experienced normal erections before their COVID infections.
One man had contracted a severe case of COVID-19 and was hospitalized for two weeks. While this man recovered from the more common symptoms of COVID, he began experiencing ED afterward.
The other man experienced a milder case of COVID-19, but he had suffered from clogged arteries and high blood pressure before contracting the COVID virus.
Physical examinations of both men showed COVID-19 particles lingering in tissues around their penises. Both men also showed evidence of endothelial dysfunction.
The study compared these two men to two other men who were COVID-free but also having surgery for erectile dysfunction. The COVID-free men showed no traces of any damage to the small blood vessels surrounding their penises.
Factor 2: Lower Testosterone
Men need testosterone in their bodies to produce an erection, and researchers linking ED with COVID suggest that COVID-19 can negatively impact the testosterone hormone.
COVID-19 studies show the virus possibly decreasing testosterone levels in a man’s body. It could also affect male fertility, although research has yet to prove this.
Scientists know that COVID-19 enters the body within a protein called ACE2, and this protein is found naturally within a man’s testes. So if ACE2 containing the COVID-19 virus infects the testosterone and sperm within a man’s testes, the virus could harm erections and possibly decrease male fertility rates.
Further studies of low testosterone and COVID-19 in men show additional risks. Men with lower testosterone levels have a higher likelihood of experiencing more severe symptoms of COVID-19.
Factor 3: Mental Health Concerns
Good mental health is closely tied to healthy sexual activity, and when our mental health is suffering, it could affect sexual performance. For example, a recent study showed that 68% of affected adults admitted to mental health issues during the global pandemic.
The COVID-19 virus causes mild to severe physical symptoms and can also contribute to stress levels, anxiety issues, and depression. These effects on mental health can contribute to sexual dysfunction, and in men, mental health risks can trigger a negative self-image and an increased risk of ED.
Factor 4: Overall Health Problems
Health experts say that ED can be a symptom of more serious, underlying health problems. Medical research also shows that men who are in poorer health are at greater risk of both ED and a more serious reaction to COVID-19.
If a young, supposedly healthy man develops erectile dysfunction soon after recovering from any form of COVID-19, it could signal a more serious health problem. So please don’t suffer in silence for months! It’s important to get a medical opinion early on when you suspect erectile dysfunction after COVID-19.
Factor 5: Blood Oxygen Levels Negatively Impacted
COVID-19 sometimes causes pneumonia resulting in lung damage, and it can decrease the amount of oxygen in a person’s bloodstream. In addition, it can affect a man’s ability to have an erection. A well-established study found reduced oxygen levels in their blood puts men at a greater risk of ED.
Factor 6: A Decreased Sense of Smell
It’s also well-documented that COVID-19 can negatively impact the sense of smell. But did you know how important the sense of smell is to arousal? This olfactory study shows how the sense of smell is directly related to successful, satisfying erections.
What Can You Do?
Erectile dysfunction caused by COVID-19 can be short-term or longer-lasting. Medical experts don’t yet know if male fertility can be seriously affected by the virus, and any long-lasting damage is still being researched.
The good news is, you can greatly lower your risks! Here are important steps to take:
- Get fully vaccinated for COVID-19. There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine causes ED or makes ED worse in men who may have it.
- Follow all prevention guidelines (like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines) to ensure you prevent the spread of the virus.
The best step you can take if you’re concerned about ED after having COVID-19 is to contact us at Oakwood Health Network. Our ED specialists will determine the cause of your ED problems, and a treatment plan can be designed specifically for you.