Links Between COVID-19, Mental Health and Erectile Dysfunction
While COVID-19 is mostly thought of as a respiratory affliction, researchers are finding that side effects of the coronavirus may also include sexual problems. According to a recent study, there is a link between COVID-19 and erectile dysfunction (ED).
A study published in the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation in July 2020 looked at the impact of the coronavirus on men's sexual health and found a correlation between COVID-19 survivors and ED.
Obviously, ED side effects are not the most important outcomes of COVID-19, a serious disease that is responsible for more than 28 million cases and more than 510,000 deaths in the United States as of early March 2021.
However, a link between COVID-19 and sexual health adds another unfortunate component to the effects of the coronavirus. Keep in mind that the evidence presented here is part of a fast-evolving understanding of the coronavirus and its effects on the human body. The reports cited here are based on small sample sizes; one was even written based on one man's experience.
Your immune response
The coronavirus causes your body to have a strong immune response, one that can impact the cardiovascular system, namely your blood, blood vessels, heart and lungs. Since you need a healthy blood flow to achieve an erection, a virus that attacks the blood vessels may have ties to ED.
At this point, any direct link between COVID-19 and ED is still awaiting the necessary research, but some researchers are developing theories. One such theory posits that inflammation could be a factor, since the damage caused by COVID-19 is not from the coronavirus itself, but rather the body's response to it.
We know the virus leads to hyperinflammation, which can cause small blot clots as well as an inflamed endothelium, the lining of a blood vessel. The diameter of the blood vessels decreases, which means less blood can pass through the vessels. This endothelial dysfunction, as it is known, disrupts the blood flow that is so critical to achieving an erection.
Other revealing studies
Interestingly, and perhaps contradictorily, COVID-19 has also been associated with causing a prolonged erection, a condition known as priapism. The American Journal of Emergency Medicine published a report about a man in his 60s who had COVID-19 and experienced an erection that lasted for four hours.
According to a very small University of Miami study, COVID-19 might affect the tissue in testicles and cause impaired sperm function. Researchers found that the coronavirus could cause infertility in males and be spread sexually by infected individuals who do not exhibit symptoms. The study analyzed the testis tissue of six men who died from complications of COVID-19 and found impaired sperm in three of the deceased men.
Another report published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine described a 37-year-old Texas man who developed testicular pain and swelling three days after being diagnosed with COVID-19. The researchers wrote that most genital-related complications in males arising from COVID-19 are linked to a spike in blood clotting, and that this could also be the cause of a prolonged erection, as previously mentioned.
COVID-19 & mental health
Anxiety, depression and other mental health issues have all been associated with COVID-19. Since your mental health can affect your libido and sexual excitement levels, your ability to get an erection can also be affected.
If you believe your ED concerns are related to your mental health, consider seeing a therapist who can help you work through the causes of the stress, anxiety and depression you may be suffering. During the COVID-19 pandemic, studies have indicated that sexual desire frequency has declined for many people, and psychological stressors can certainly be a cause of ED.
While these sexual issues are very rare, the symptoms of COVID-19 can be extremely serious and you should seek medical treatment immediately if you experience them.