COVID-19 has been a troublemaker since it came onto the scene. You know all about the shortness of breath, fever, conjunctivitis, dizziness, delirium, fatigue and sore throat. And you’ve heard about COVID toes, hair loss, and lingering fatigue.
Now, there’s the possibility the novel coronavirus may be linked to erectile dysfunction (ED), which is the inability to get and keep an erection firm enough for sexual activity.
Researchers from the University of Rome reported that the Corona virus is known to cause inflammation in the endothelium — the inner lining of blood vessels throughout the body.
Arteries supplying the genitals are small and narrow, so any inflammation is likely to disrupt blood flow and impede a man’s sexual response.
This is the latest piece of research to find that, in many ways, men fare worse with a Covid infection than women — they are more prone to serious symptoms and 1.7 times more likely to die of the virus.
Some experts have suggested differences in levels of the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone may partly explain this.
‘One of the devious ways the virus gets into the body is by its spike protein binding to a receptor found at quite high concentrations not only in the lungs but in the reproductive organs,’ explains Dr Channa Jayasena, a consultant in reproductive endocrinology and andrology at Hammersmith Hospital in London.
‘When Covid-19 binds to these receptors, they can no longer perform their normal function.’
A review of 24 studies on male fertility and Covid-19, published last year in the World Journal of Men’s Health, noted that patients who had suffered a moderate Covid infection had significantly lower sperm concentration, often for months after recovery, compared with those whose infection had been only mild.
Mike Kirby, a former professor of general practice in Hertfordshire and editor of The Aging Male, suggests this means doctors should be ready to check testosterone levels in male Covid patients and, if necessary, provide testosterone replacement.
He says that without it, those men are at higher risk of cardiovascular problems, type 2 diabetes, muscular weakness and depression, and loss of sexual desire, function, and fertility.
Having COVID doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll experience ED. But it can cause you problems.
Knowing that may not only shore up your efforts to protect yourself from the virus, but also help you in knowing there are reasons you might have ED after COVID, and there are things you can do about it.