We know that the coronavirus can affect many parts of the body, including the brain and lungs. Is it time to acknowledge impotence might be a symptom too?
As more cases of COVID-19 have appeared, so too have more reports linking erectile dysfunction to the disease. A study published in July in the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation found coronavirus survivors may experience sexual and reproductive health issues like ED following their illness. Doctors and experts also say they’ve seen patients who have struggled with the problem after contracting the virus.
The fact is that COVID-19 is still new to the medical world, and we’re still discovering short-term and long-term effects of the virus. There isn’t enough scientific data to definitively and directly link the coronavirus to erectile dysfunction.
But some experts don’t anticipate ED remaining a rare symptom as time goes on, and believe it will become more common “in anyone who has a severe COVID infection,” said Judson Brandeis, a urologist in California.
Here’s what could be going on with people experiencing erectile dysfunction following COVID-19.
COVID-19 can cause blood flow issues, which could be a factor in erectile dysfunction.
Data has shown that the virus can infect and attack blood vessels. This explains why some people who survived COVID-19 have experienced blood clots, complications with the lungs or kidneys, or oral health issues like tooth loss. It could also be the reason behind coronavirus-related ED, according to Christopher Kyle, a urologist in Oregon and medical advisor at Giddy, a company that focuses on sexual health and wellness for men and their partners.
“Erectile dysfunction largely stems from issues with blood flow, so it’s no surprise that COVID-related vascular issues may be related to erectile dysfunction,” Kyle said. “Anything that degrades blood vessels or impedes how freely blood flows throughout all parts of the body will almost assuredly have an impact on the ability to achieve an erection.”
Erectile dysfunction is a symptom of a cardiovascular condition that might be brought on by COVID-19.
The blood flow issues mentioned above are also related to the cardiovascular system. Some experts believe this connection might be responsible for potential long-term erectile dysfunction in some COVID-19 patients.
“There is a theory that COVID-19 can lead to a cardiovascular disease called endothelial dysfunction,” Kyle said, which is a condition affecting the large blood vessels on the heart’s surface. “This disease is also caused by other conditions like diabetes, hypertension and smoking, all of which are linked to erectile dysfunction, further suggesting that COVID may contribute to ED later in life.”
So, in other words, if COVID-19 causes endothelial dysfunction, it could also be possible that a person will experience ED as a result of that condition. However, there needs to be more research on this connection to draw a definitive conclusion.
Finally, contracting the coronavirus can take a toll on your mental health — another key component of sexual performance.
Mental health and physical health are intrinsically linked. Preventing, contracting and recovering from COVID-19 can affect your emotional well-being, which “could lead to a significant worsening in sexual desire and mood,” according to the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation study authors.
All of this underscores the need for more COVID-19 data and research. It’s unclear how long ED may last if people experience it, but Kyle also stressed the importance of treatment.
“The primary concern, of course, is treating the most acute symptoms of the coronavirus infection,” he said. “Once those issues are addressed, then we can determine if there are any long-term effects. If it turns out that COVID has lasting effects on an individual’s blood flow and ED is a byproduct of these issues, there are many treatment options available, such as medications and wearable devices.”
As always, do everything you can to prevent transmitting or contracting the virus, including wearing a mask, physical distancing and limiting social gatherings, Brandeis said.
“COVID can hurt you in many ways,” he added. “Now add erectile dysfunction to the list.”