- A new study revealed that two men who developed ED six to eight months after contracting COVID-19 had lingering virus in their penises.
- COVID can also cause male infertility and mental health issues.
- The best protections are vaccination and mask-wearing. Social distancing and hand-washing remain good advice.
- If you have ED symptoms, contact your physician as soon as possible.
A troubling new research finding is bad news for men: COVID-19 has been found to cause damage to the male reproductive system, including erectile dysfunction (ED).
In the early days of the pandemic, scientists were focusing on the effect of the novel coronavirus on the respiratory system. As the pandemic wears on, however, more information is coming to light on other serious effects the SARS-CoV-2 virus can have on the body. Several of them have a direct impact on male reproductive health.
We reported last December on a study finding that COVID-19 can cause erectile dysfunction. A new study, published on May 7, 2021, reveals more. Researchers found that the virus can linger in the penis long after the initial infection.
The researchers describe two cases of men treated for severe erectile dysfunction following COVID-19 infections. One developed sexual problems after six months of getting sick from the virus and the other after eight months.
Researchers compared test results of those patients with results of those who have not had COVID-19. It turned out that survivors had damage in the blood vessels of their penises and that the virus stayed in the penis long after recovery.
The research suggests that the organ damage to the penis could be permanent. The two men in the study underwent penile prosthesis surgery to regain sexual function.
How COVID-19 Damage Can Lead to ED
An earlier study also found a link between erectile dysfunction and COVID-19. The research suggested several COVID-related factors that could contribute to problems with erections:
- Damage to the blood vessels, called endothelial dysfunction, reduces blood flow. Good circulation is necessary for the penis to work. This is the type of damage that researchers found in the May 7 study.
- The virus can cause heart problems and exacerbate existing ones. Here again, cardiovascular health is linked to erections. On top of that, some medicines, for example, those prescribed for hypertension, have sexual side effects.
- Long-term problems with oxygen saturation in the blood, called pulmonary fibrosis, could manifest as erectile dysfunction in some men.
Other Ways that COVID-19 Can Affect Men’s Reproductive Health
In addition to erectile dysfunction, COVID-19 may also affect male fertility. Scientists performed postmortem biopsies of 12 men who died of the infection. In 11 of the 12 cases, they found evidence of damage to the testes.
More studies are emerging confirming that COVID-19 also leads to hypogonadism (reduction in testosterone levels). It also impacts other reproductive hormones, potentially leading to fertility problems.
Scientists have serious cause for concern with regard to male fertility post-COVID-19. One study, conducted on men aged 20 to 40 over the course of 60 days, revealed that coronavirus survivors had poorer sperm quality than men in the control group.
Time will tell how much the virus will affect male fertility. For now, experts recommend reproductive health follow-ups for survivors.
COVID-19 can also have negative effects on men’s (and women’s) mental health. Coronavirus patients are at risk for developing mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Any of these conditions can cause the loss of sexual desire and erection problems in men.
Unfortunately, the most common treatment for mental health issues is antidepressants. Unfortunately, antidepressants can make ED worse. Talk to your doctor ASAP if you’re having trouble coping, especially during the pandemic.
How COVID-19 Affects the Body
While the possibility of sexual dysfunction is concerning, the threats to your general health can be worse. This new coronavirus is tricky, and doctors are still puzzled by it. Most people who get sick start coughing, and some have trouble breathing and need hospitalization. But COVID-19 can lead to other serious complications, such as:
- failure of one or more organs
- blood clots
- heart problems
- kidney damage
- other infections
While severe symptoms rarely last more than a few weeks, long-term effects of the disease may linger for months or longer.
Long-Haulers Suffer for Months After COVID-19
The number of people suffering from “long COVID” is increasing. Post-acute COVID-19 is not just a problem of the elderly; it affects younger patients as well.
The infection can wreak havoc on the body, leaving it prone to a host of physical and mental health problems. COVID-19 survivors report such issues as:
- difficulties breathing, for example, when walking up the stairs
- stomach problems
- depression and anxiety
- being extremely tired
- difficulty concentrating at work
- memory problems
Avoiding COVID-19 Infection Is More Important Than Ever
Since there is still so much we don’t know about this disease, we should take all possible precautions to avoid getting infected. The very best ways to protect yourself from COVID-19 are 1) wear a mask and 2) get vaccinated.
Possible lifelong consequences like ED and infertility should be motivating enough to get serious about prevention. Ironically, many men feel that mask-wearing is unmanly, but’s it not wearing one that can seriously compromise your manhood.
Along with mask-wearing, the earlier advice is still good: maintain social distancing and wash your hands often.
Of course, vaccines are the best possible protection against the virus. With a lot of misinformation circulating in the media about the safety of vaccines, it is important to know what the research says.
In terms of fertility, medical authorities, such as the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, have analyzed the mechanism of action of currently available vaccines and concluded they do not cause infertility for men or women. COVID-19, on the other hand, can.
To learn more about where this misinformation came from, start here.
Finding Help for Erectile Dysfunction
If you suspect COVID-19 caused your erectile problems, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your doctor. Starting treatment as soon as possible and getting regular check-ups are musts.
In the meantime, eDrugstore is here for you. Whether you are struggling with sexual function issues such as erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation or relationship and intimacy issues, eDrugstore can help. Check out our medication guide or follow the eDrugstore blog for more information about sexual health and other men’s health issues.
Anka Grzywacz is a sexologist, reproductive health expert and Certified Sex Coach™. In her online practice she helps busy women and couples solve their intimate problems.