Does Covid-19 cause erectile dysfunction?

Does Covid-19 cause erectile dysfunction?

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Loss of taste and smell, shortness of breath, frozen fingers and toes, or even brain fog – since the start of the pandemic, we have all discovered the incongruous symptoms and other ill effects associated with Covid-19. But erectile dysfunction could also be added to the list. A problem studied in the context of a hundred scientific publications around the world, from Europe to the United States, passing through Thailand and Turkey.

Several observational scientific studies have found higher rates of erectile dysfunction among men who recently contracted the disease. However, other factors associated with the pandemic, such as stress, could partly explain the phenomenon.

Affected penile vessels

When he received the first patients for this reason for consultation, Dr. Ranjith Ramasamy, director of the reproductive urology unit at the University of Miami Desai Sethi Institute of Urology, co-author of a paper on the subject, first believed that “everything was psychological or stress,” as he told the New York Times. But faced with the increase in cases of post-Covid erectile dysfunction, he investigated the phenomenon and found that “six months after the initial infection, the condition of the patients had generally improved, but they continued to complain of these erection problems.

An increase in cases difficult to quantify. If for Dr. Ramasamy, the risk of erectile dysfunction increases by 20% after contracting Covid-19, according to Pr. Emmanuele Jannini, professor of endocrinology and medical sexology at the University of Rome, men who have been infected by Covid-19 are almost six times more likely to develop erectile dysfunction compared to those who have never contracted it, specifies in the study of which he is a co-author.

By what mechanism? Scientists know that Covid-19 can have a lasting effect on the cardiovascular system, as confirmed by a study published in March in the journal Nature by researchers at the American University of Saint-Louis. And in practice, vascular problems can appear first in the sexual organs, which are irrigated by smaller vessels, which are essential to ensure good blood circulation and maintain erections. Therefore, Covid-19 can affect the blood vessels of the penis. However, “the penile artery is a tenth of the size of a coronary artery, and when you have a narrower vessel, whether it’s a ‘plumbing’ problem or a vascular problem, it will show up there first, even before you see it.” into a larger artery,” Dr. T. Mike Hsieh, a male fertility urologist at the University of California, San Diego, told the US newspaper.

Other factors related to Covid-19

But other factors related to Covid-19 could also explain the increase in cases of erectile dysfunction. The authors of a study published in February in the journal Nature recall that the impact of the pandemic on individuals, their social relationships and their partners, as well as anxiety and depression disorders and the social isolation it has induced, are susceptible elements. to affect erectile functions.

“Men’s erections are more complicated than people think,” explains the New York Times Dr. Justin Dubin, co-author of an article on the harmful effects of Covid-19 on men’s health. Okay, “you need good blood flow, you need nerves to function, and you need good hormone levels, especially testosterone,” he said. “But you also have to be in a good frame of mind, and you have to be excited. If any of these criteria are not met, you may have difficulty achieving an erection.

Another symptom of Covid-19 could also explain the alteration in male sexuality: the loss of taste and smell seen in many Covid patients, depriving them of the senses essential for sexuality. “It is through odors that the arousal mechanism in the brain is activated”, point out Professors Bertolo, Cipriani and Bove, Italian urologists, authors of a study on the effects of anosmia and ageusia on erectile dysfunction.

An early sign of cardiovascular risk

However, it happens that erection disorders precede the onset of cardiovascular diseases, with all pathologies having common risk factors: obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, which are also risk factors for developing a severe form of Covid-19. . . In men, erectile dysfunction can precede a heart attack by about five years, according to Dr. Hsieh.

That is why, when a patient consults him for erectile dysfunction, “he does not just receive a prescription” for blue pills, says Dr. Hsieh, who first prescribes a battery of tests -cholesterol, diabetes, weight- in addition to a better lifestyle. in case of poor diet and sedentary lifestyle. And if post-Covid erectile dysfunction can in some cases resolve spontaneously, when the disorders persist, it is necessary to consult without delay, both to prevent them from becoming established and to check that they are not a harbinger of other pathologies.

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