Can the coronavirus really cause erectile dysfunction?

Can the coronavirus really cause erectile dysfunction?

We finally break the silence on this frequently asked question. 

Have you recently lost your mojo in the bedroom? If yes, then there are chances that COVID-19 could be to blame for it.

While you may be familiar with common symptoms of COVID-19 such as shortness of breath, fever, fatigue, and perhaps loss of both taste and smell, you should also know that the potential impact of this deadly disease doesn’t just end there. In case you didn’t know, research now suggests that one of the potential complications of the coronavirus is erectile dysfunction or ED. 

First and foremost, let me explain that the potential causes of erectile dysfunction vary widely. Psychologically, there must be arousal. Physiologically, your body and brain need to release the proper chemicals needed to initiate an erection. Physically, your penis must be able to erect. With many things working holistically for a successful sexual encounter, it also means that lots of things can actually go wrong along the way. And when the coronavirus finds its way into your body, the resulting illness can potentially interfere with every part of this system, from psychological impact, testosterone levels to blood vessels, ultimately causing erectile dysfunction.

The novel coronavirus causes an incredibly strong inflammatory response throughout the affected individual’s body, ultimately affecting vital organs such as the brain, heart among others. So, it is unsurprising to see erectile dysfunction connected to COVID-19. While more research needs to be done to ascertain these claims, preliminary research strongly shows that there is indeed a link between coronavirus and erectile dysfunction.

It is also worth noting that any major medical condition or illness that affects your body can actually make you suffer from erectile dysfunction. However, coronavirus has been proven to have this strong systematic, inflammatory response that somehow drives your hormones down. And when the levels of your hormones drop, you are always likely to notice reduced morning as well as nocturnal erections. This reduced sexual desire, and also the dwindling spontaneous erections, is something that some COVID-19 patients have noticed and experienced.

Stressed man

But how does COVID-19 bring about erectile dysfunction problems?

Damaged blood vessels in your penis

As you already know, erections are all about blood flow. To get and keep an erection, blood needs to have no problem flowing into your penis. If you suffer from erectile dysfunction, it can simply mean that one or more of your blood vessels are affected, in that they are either blocked or damaged.

Some of the smallest and most fragile blood vessels are located in your penile region. Besides supplying blood to the lower parts of your body, these vessels also play a crucial role in supplying blood to your reproductive organs, —including the penis— and aiding in erections.

COVID-19 generally attacks your blood vessels, and the associated symptoms have been well-documented over the last few months. In some coronavirus patients, COVID-19 triggers hyperinflammation in their bodies, which in turn causes small blood clots to form in the blood vessels as well as in the linings of the blood vessels. This implies that the overall supply of blood to the penile region can either be narrowed or blocked, making it very tough to get and maintain an erection.

The burden on already compromised health

Erectile dysfunction can be a symptom of a major or larger underlying health issue. What this means is that if your overall health is somewhat poor, you may be increasingly likely to suffer erectile dysfunction. What’s more, those having poor health have an increased likelihood of contracting the coronavirus and subsequently suffering more severe symptoms.

Covid-19 can affect your heart and potentially worsen or aggravate underlying cardiovascular health conditions and a lot of other heart-related complications. Many studies have shown that there is a connection between cardiovascular diseases and erectile dysfunction. As earlier mentioned, healthy blood flow is necessary for erections and this is usually compromised when one is suffering from cardiovascular disease. What’s more, some medications used to treat cardiovascular health problems such as high blood pressure can contribute to erectile dysfunction.


The impact of mental health

It is well documented that emotional distress, anxiety, and depression can all result in reduced sexual desire and libido. Further, it is pretty clear that most coronavirus sufferers or patients have experienced a great degree of emotional distress, following the loss of relatives, social distancing as well as economic challenges. These things alone could potentially adversely affect your sex drive. After all, no man on earth would feel motivated to have sex when experiencing such distressful events.

Besides these, coronavirus patients experiencing the many symptoms associated with the virus are usually emotionally drained, and these people could be particularly at risk of experiencing erectile dysfunction. In general, there is a strong link between mental health and sexual activity. For you to perform well during any form of sexual encounter, you must first have your head tuned in the game!

Damaged testicular cells and tissues

Your testicles are where testosterone, a vital male hormone that is crucial for erections and other male functions, is produced. Recent studies suggest that COVID-19 could potentially lead to a depletion of testosterone levels in males, leading to erectile dysfunction.

The coronavirus enters your testicular cells through the help of a protein known as ACE2, which is found in the testes. Because this is where testosterone and sperm are manufactured in men, it is not surprising that the virus can affect both your erections and fertility.


So, what do you need to do?

The impacts of coronavirus on our lives are already too much to bear, and adding erectile dysfunction to the equation can be a crushing blow to men already suffering from the deadly virus. While these are only preliminary findings, contracting or suffering the virus doesn’t entirely imply that you’ll certainly experience erectile dysfunction as a side effect.

Of course, if you have just recovered from the virus and are experiencing visible erectile dysfunction symptoms, it would be a great idea to have a chat with your doctor or about your situation before looking for any other aid. Your doctor will not only help determine the cause of your erectile dysfunction, but will also recommend the most appropriate ED treatment option that suits your needs and preferences.


The bottom line

While the potential side effects of the coronavirus can be far-reaching, you can possibly lower your risk for contracting the virus as well as your risk for the associated side effects by getting the COVID-19 vaccine. What’s more, you also need to make sure you are adhering to the COVID-19 control and prevention measures and do whatever you can to reduce the spread of this deadly virus.


References

  1. Sansone, A., Mollaioli, D., Ciocca, G., Colonnello, E., Limoncin, E., Balercia, G., & Jannini, E. A. (2021). “Mask up to keep it up”: Preliminary evidence of the association between erectile dysfunction and COVID-19. Andrology, 10.1111/andr.13003. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1111/andr.13003

This article was written and medically reviewed by Dr Ben, M.D on 26/06/21