Can COVID-19 cause erectile dysfunction (ED)?

Reproductive Health

🎱🍆 Signs point to yes.

Previous small studies suggested a link between COVID-19 and ED, but we now have… firmer evidence.

A large study using US insurance claims data compared men who were infected with COVID-19 between Jan 2020-Jan 2021 (so pre-vaccine) to men with similar characteristics without an infection. Men with a COVID-19 infection were 27% more likely to have a new ED diagnosis over the follow-up period.While we’re not exactly sure how COVID-19 messes with your erection game, a few biological mechanisms are suspected:

🥜Testosterone and testicular/penile damage: The ACE2 enzyme that is the entry point for SARS-CoV-2 in host cells is highly expressed in the testis, including cells that produce testosterone.

🌭Vascular system: Erectile dysfunction is associated with vascular (blood vessel) health. Vascular damage associated with COVID-19 “is likely to affect the fragile vascular bed of the penis.”

💔 Effects on the heart: With the impact of COVID-19 on myocarditis, arrythmias and other cardiovascular events, COVID-19 survivors are more likely to develop severe cardiovascular disease. This can impact ED directly as well as through cardiovascular treatments such as β-blockers and antihypertensive drugs.

🫁 Lung damage: Pulmonary fibrosis (scarring in the lungs) impairs lung function and oxygen saturation which may impact ED. Chronic lung diseases, including interstitial lung diseases and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) are associated with ED.

Study caveats: the risk of ED was low overall, so only 1.4% of infected men received a new diagnosis compared to 1.1% of uninfected controls. Also, since this was not a randomized trial (we can’t randomize infection!), infected men might be different from uninfected men in some other way that increases risk of ED. The study tries to account for this by comparing men with similar characteristics, but this doesn’t always eliminate the bias.

The study also measured infection prior to vaccines, so we don’t yet know whether vaccination lowers the risk of ED after infection (biologically it would make sense that it does). We’ll wait for more hard evidence on that point.

All joking aside, ED is a serious condition that can have a big impact on a person’s quality of life. So, if you’ve had COVID-19 and are experiencing ED or any other concerning symptoms, it’s important to talk to your doctor about it.

In the meantime, let’s all do our part to keep those blood vessels healthy in all parts of the body!!


Those Nerdy Girls