Could Covid cause erectile dysfunction? Doctors say blood vessels damaged by virus may increase risk
Covid could cause erectile dysfunction, doctors believe as the link between the two continues to develop.
Scientists already know that the virus can damage blood vessels, restricting blood flow throughout the body.
Erections occur only from the blood flowing through the small and narrow arteries that supply the genitals, so anything hindering this can lead to the problem.
Dozens of reports of infected men suffering from impotence have surfaced since the start of the pandemic. Several studies have also linked the virus itself to the state of health.
Cleveland Clinic urologist Dr Ryan Berglund said Covid is already known to cause myocarditis – inflammation of the heart muscle – in some cases.
Therefore, it is plausible that it can also cause erectile dysfunction.
But he said the evidence is “mostly anecdotal” at the moment, so the extent of the problem is unclear and more studies are needed.
Doctor in the United States said Covid could cause erectile dysfunction, patients suffering from the disease after recovering from the virus
How could Covid cause erectile dysfunction?
Some doctors suspect that the coronavirus could increase the risk of men developing erectile dysfunction.
So far, their fears are based on anecdotal evidence from patients reporting erection problems after contracting the virus.
A few small-scale studies have linked the disease as well, but doctors say more is needed.
One way Covid could lead to erectile dysfunction is pneumonia.
Pneumonia can inflame blood vessels, which can restrict blood flow.
Erections are purely caused by blood flow, so anything that interferes with that could have a ripple effect.
Pneumonia can also damage people’s lungs, which can affect oxygen levels in the blood.
This can make it difficult for men to maintain an erection.
Covid could also infect testosterone-producing cells in the testes called Leydig cells.
A drop in these cells can affect libido and desire.
Dr Emmanuele Jannini, professor of endocrinology and medical sexology at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, said the decrease in smell could also be linked to erectile dysfunction.
Not being able to smell could prevent arousal, he said.
Dr Jannini said the link could even be linked to poor mental health, with the pandemic leading to higher stress levels.
It could keep men from getting aroused, he said.
Doctors have also suggested that blood oxygen levels, damage to testosterone-producing cells, and stress from the pandemic could be responsible.
While one suggested a reduced sense of smell from a Covid infection by making men less aroused.
A study in March found that men who catch the virus are three times more likely to have erectile dysfunction, while another in May said men could take six months to recover.
Dr Berglund told the Los Angeles Times: “It is the blood vessels themselves that can become inflamed, which could cause obstruction and negatively impact the ability to have erections.”
It is clear that some Covid patients suffer from inflamed blood vessels, which is not uncommon with other viral infections, he said.
Dr Berglund added: “It’s just that the magnitude of this viral infection and its severity probably led to a higher incidence of vascular disease and vascular inflammatory disease than other viral infections.”
He said observational studies should be done on men of the same age and level of health to see if erectile dysfunction is more common in those who have had the virus.
He said erectile dysfunction after Covid could signal that a person also has heart problems linked to the virus.
Dr Emmanuele Jannini, professor of endocrinology and medical sexology at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, told the newspaper that the dysfunction could be a long-standing symptom of Covid.
The umbrella term covers all symptoms of Covid that last for more than a month after infection, with difficulty breathing and fatigue being considered the most common.
He said Covid patients who develop pneumonia may be at risk for erectile dysfunction, as the disease can also reduce blood oxygen levels.
This is well known to lead to erection problems, said Dr Jannini.
A loss of smell – a well-known symptom of Covid – could also prevent someone from awakening, he said.
Dr Berglund said it could be that Covid is damaging testosterone-producing cells, but this link has not been proven.
Doctors have already said that Covid can bind to these cells and prevent them from functioning normally, leaving men with lower testosterone levels.
Dr Berglund said Covid could also be indirectly responsible for other cases of erectile dysfunction.
Some people are more stressed because of the pandemic, especially if they have lost their jobs or are struggling with Covid restrictions. This could cause men to be less “in the mood”.
The doctors’ comments come after a study by doctors at the University of Rome found that men who catch the virus are three times more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction.
Their study of 100 men, on average 33 years old, found that 9% of people who had not had Covid had erection problems.
But 28% of men who had been infected with the coronavirus reported the problem.
Doctors at the University of Miami found SARS-CoV-2 in the penis of two men six months after they recovered from the virus.
Dr Jannini said the possible link between the virus and erectile dysfunction is another reason people get vaccinated.