Many people have questions about their risk of erectile dysfunction (ED) and, specifically, if there’s a genetic risk factor that they’ll suffer from ED.

ED Symptoms

ED is a sexual dysfunction that makes it difficult or impossible for a person to get an erect penis or keep their erection firm enough to enjoy sexual intercourse.

The symptoms of ED can vary from mild to severe, and, typically, ED is a persistent condition. People with ED describe their symptoms in various ways:

  • They may get an erection at night or during self-pleasure, but they may not get an erection during intercourse.
  • They may get an erection, but it’s not firm and doesn’t last long enough to have sexual intercourse. 
  • As ED worsens, some people can’t get an erection at all.

People of every age, nationality, and ethnicity can have erectile dysfunction, but the question remains: is erectile dysfunction genetic?

A GWA Study May Answer the Question

We read a GWA study that we’d like to break down for you.

GWA is the abbreviation for a genome-wide association. Erectile dysfunction researchers conducted this particular GWA study with a racially diverse group of almost 37,000 men to determine if ED can be genetic.  

Here are some important details from the GWA study:

  • 14,125 of the study participants reported ED symptoms compared to 22,434 men who did not.
  • The people with ED were typically older males with slightly higher body mass indexes (BMI).
  • Some of the people with ED had diabetes.
  • Some of the people with ED were smokers.
  • Some had already been clinically diagnosed with ED.
  • Some were taking ED prescriptions to treat their condition.

Findings From the GWA Study

Erectile dysfunction researchers took DNA samples from the study participants and made some exciting discoveries:

  • In participants who reported having ED, researchers found a genetic defect in their DNA makeup involving a gene called SIM1.
  • People with the genetic defect showed a nearly 26% higher risk of ED.
  • This risk had no connection to other ED risk factors like obesity or cardiovascular disease.

Later, the same researchers tested the DNA of a much larger group (over 220,000 men). Again, results showed that the same SIM1 genetic defect in men increased their risk of ED.

Based on this extensive research, the scientists behind the GWA study felt that biology and genetics might play a role in some people developing erectile dysfunction.

So What’s the Good News?

Based on the GWA study, some ED research focuses on the SIM1 genetic defect.

In everyday language, the good news is that ED treatments may soon be developed to target the SIM1 genome and cure genetic ED for good!

Organic Versus Genetic Risk of Erectile Dysfunction

While there’s some proof that ED may be genetic, researchers already know that erectile dysfunction can be a side effect of other genetic conditions.

In other words, you may be genetically predisposed towards disease, and your genetic condition causes ED as a side effect. In this case, your ED is an organic disorder.

Let’s explain what we mean by looking at different genetic diseases.

Obesity

Research into the body mass index (BMI) of obese people discovered a similar genetic marker (also called a genetic predisposition), so obesity may be handed down through generations.

Peyronie’s Disease

When the penis has a noticeable curve, lump, or indent, it could be Peyronie’s Disease, and lengthy research into the condition does suggest genetic links.

Chronic Kidney Disease

Geneticists studying chronic kidney disease pinpointed genes like MYH9 that may prove a genetic link for chronic kidney disease.

Heart and Blood Vessel Disease

Many different types of heart disease appear to be caused by faulty genes passed down through a family line.

Monogenic conditions are rare heart disorders with genetic links. These conditions include:

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • A prolonged QT syndrome, or
  • Familial hypercholesterolemia, a rare disorder that causes high cholesterol and increased risk of premature coronary disease before age 50

Type 2 Diabetes (T2D)

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) reported that type 2 diabetes has more genetic links than type 1.

ADA research says that twins showed higher risks of type 2 diabetes than any other form of the condition, and when one parent has T2D, the risk climbs to 40%. That risk jumps to 70% if both parents have type 2 diabetes.

It’s interesting to note the link between obesity, type 2 diabetes, and genetics because obese people have T2D in much higher numbers.

Our Conclusion of Genetic Risk Factors

Many diseases or conditions with a genetic link can cause erectile dysfunction as a side effect, but science has also proven that we can’t blame genetics entirely.

People can get heart problems, chronic kidney issues, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and even Peyronie’s disease from unhealthy lifestyle choices or a poor environment.

Let’s Put the Genetic Risk Factor of ED Into Perspective

When we looked at the vast amount of research suggesting possible genetic links with erectile dysfunction, we realized that our focus must be on treating many other causes of ED.

At Oakwood Health Network, we want to help all of our patients and effectively treat their ED in the hopes of reducing the risk of suffering ED again in the future.

Here is what we mean:

  • Before your free consultation, you won’t need to dig up your family health history to try and find out if your great-grandfather or another distant relative suffered from ED!
  • It’s much more beneficial to the success of your ED treatment program to focus on making healthy lifestyle changes that lower your risk of erectile dysfunction.

At Oakwood Health Network, we customize the most effective ED treatment program for you based on multiple strategies.

Your erectile dysfunction may result from one or more factors, including organic issues, psychological concerns, lifestyle choices, and even genetics. That’s a lot to consider! But we specialize in treating all forms of erectile dysfunction.

Let us help you tackle ED! Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 2018. Genetic risk factor associated with erectile dysfunction | NIDDK. [online] Available at: <https://www.niddk.nih.gov/news/archive/2018/genetic-risk-factor-associated-with-erectile-dysfunction> [Accessed 19 December 2021].

Brandkvist, M., Bjørngaard, J., Ødegård, R., Åsvold, B., Sund, E. and Vie, G., 2019. Quantifying the impact of genes on body mass index during the obesity epidemic: longitudinal findings from the HUNT Study. BMJ, [online] p.l4067. Available at: <https://www.bmj.com/content/366/bmj.l4067> [Accessed 18 December 2021].

Gabrielsen, J., 2020. Peyronie’s disease: is it genetic or not?. Translational Andrology and Urology, [online] 9(S2), pp.S262-S268. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7108984/> [Accessed 19 December 2021].

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Harvard Health. 2017. The genetics of heart disease: An update – Harvard Health. [online] Available at: <https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/the-genetics-of-heart-disease-an-update> [Accessed 19 December 2021].

Richards, L., 2021. Is type 2 diabetes genetic? Causes, genes, and prevention. [online] Medicalnewstoday.com. Available at: <https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/is-type-2-diabetes-genetic#which-genes> [Accessed 17 December 2021].

Sharma, M., 2022. 6 Lifestyle Changes for Erectile Dysfunction: How Can They Help You? – Oakwood Health Network. [online] Oakwood Health Network. Available at: <https://www.oakwoodhealth.com/6-lifestyle-changes-for-erectile-dysfunction/> [Accessed 16 December 2021].

Ali, O., 2013. Genetics of type 2 diabetes. World Journal of Diabetes, [online] 4(4), p.114. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3746083/> [Accessed 17 December 2021].