What if the COVID-19 pandemic hit men where it really hurts? Emerging evidence shows that the virus might be punching below the belt. The evidence of a COVID and erectile dysfunction connection is starting to crop up with men reporting that they’re having trouble getting an erection after being infected by the coronavirus. Low libido from pandemic stress probably plays a role. But doctors say the virus itself could make it hard to get aroused. This is what we know.
Does COVID Cause Erectile Dysfunction?
Although COVID is primarily known as a respiratory disease, it can disrupt many other body systems, including the cardiovascular system. “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,” Christopher Kyle, a urologist and medical health advisor for the sexual wellness company Giddy, told Huffington Post. “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.”
A study from May found damaged blood vessels and coronavirus particles in the penises of two men who had developed erectile dysfunction months after recovering from COVID. One of the men had been hospitalized for COVID, but the other only had mild illness.
Testosterone, which is crucial for erections, may also be a victim of COVID. The testicles are the main site of testosterone production in people who have them. Testicular cells have an ACE2 receptor on their surface — the same receptor the coronavirus uses to invade cells. Researchers have found that the virus can indeed use those receptors to infect the testes. This could not only have an impact on the production of testosterone but also sperm. In other words, the coronavirus may not only affect erections but also fertility.
Overall poor health is also associated with erectile dysfunction. Men with poor health are at greater risk for severe COVID, and health problems from the disease can stick around for months, according to the Cleveland Clinic. This can put men who have been infected at risk for erectile dysfunction.
There isn’t yet data available that proves COVID is the direct cause of erectile dysfunction or how common of a symptom it may be. “It’s important to study it, because the total number of people involved may be in the millions and across all age ranges,” Hunter Wessells, a urologist at the University of Washington School of Medicine, told Elemental.
It’s possible that case reports of erectile dysfunction after COVID may not have a viral cause. Pandemic stress is beyond real, and its effects include trouble getting in the mood. “So many people are stressed out from the one-two punch of the pandemic and the economy. They’re working from home, some are or have been sick, and others are worried about finances. It’s a mess,” sex and relationship expert April Masini told Fatherly. “This kind of stress wreaks havoc on mental health and sex drives; this kind of stress creates sex deserts.”
If it’s a biological cause leading to erectile dysfunction after COVID, Viagra should help. If the roadblock is mental, self-care is essential. Exercise, eating right, and quitting doomscrolling can reduce stress and make you feel a bit more in the mood. Although stress makes it harder to have sex, having sex decreases stress. If you can do it once, it might be easier to do again.
If you’re not experiencing erectile dysfunction, take precautions against COVID now to prevent issues in the bedroom later. Get vaccinated, and mask up to keep it up.