ED in Men with HTLV-1 Associated with Neurological Damage
Among men infected with the human T-lymphotropic virus type 1, the vast majority of erectile dysfunction is attributable to the neurological damage caused by this retrovirus.
The human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is a retrovirus that infects roughly 5 to 10 million people worldwide. The virus is responsible for immune-mediated diseases of the central nervous system, including adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma and HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis, or HAM/TSP.
Recent research indicates that the neurological damage associated with HTLV-1 is responsible for the inordinately high percentage of male HTLV-1 carriers who suffer from erectile dysfunction.
Other Factors Can Cause ED Too
ED, of course, can be caused by a number of other physiological and psychological factors, including hormonal deficiencies, depression, and anxiety. Within the general population, vascular insufficiency, usually caused by atherosclerosis, is by far the single biggest cause of ED. However, in this most recent study, vascular insufficiency was not directly assessed.
A team of Brazilian researchers, most of them associated with the Federal University of Bahia, undertook a study to determine the primary cause of ED among men infected with HTLV-1, which can be spread through sexual contact. They focused primarily on hormonal factors, psychogenic factors, and neurological factors.
What Tests Showed
Researchers recruited a study group of HTLV-1 infected men with or without ED. Those study participants were then tested for total testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone, prolactin, anxiety and depressive symptoms, and neurologic manifestations.
Researchers used the International Index of Erectile Function questionnaire to determine comparative levels of erectile function among study participants, including both those with and without ED.
After preliminary testing, the research team divided the study participants into three groups. The first included those with confirmed diagnoses of HAM/TSP, while the second was made up of those with probable but not yet definitive HAM/TSP. The third group consisted of asymptomatic HTLV-1 carriers.
After analyzing data from the three groups, the research team concluded that manifestations of neurological injury “are a stronger predictor of ED than hormonal and psychogenic factors in HTLV-1-infected men.” They published their findings in the September 11, 2019, issue of The Journal of Sexual Medicine.
Earlier Study Cited
A 2017 study, conducted by many of the same Brazilian researchers involved in the more recent study, found that the major cause of ED in men infected with HTLV-1 was neurological impairment and not vascular insufficiency. As previously noted, the latter is the largest single cause of ED among the general population. This earlier study was published in the October 2017 issue of The Journal of Sexual Medicine.
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