Researchers are exploring a new potential complication of COVID-19: erectile dysfunction. A study published in Andrology by a group of Italian urologists analyzed the presence of erectile dysfunction in 100 men and noted it was more prevalent among the patients who were COVID-19 positive.
Lael Stieglitz, MD, urologist and head of the Men’s Sexual Health Program at Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center, said the connection makes sense: COVID-19 leads to vascular dysfunction and inflammation of the blood vessels, including those in the penis. Other studies are even looking into whether treating both male and female COVID-19 patients with Viagra® can improve blood flow.
“The data from these studies is definitely new, and there is going to be a lot more coming,” Dr. Stieglitz said. “The best defense against potential symptoms is getting your COVID-19 vaccine or booster.”
Dr. Stieglitz said erectile dysfunction can also be caused by psychological factors, noting the pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of many.
“Erections start with a person wanting to have one,” Dr. Stieglitz said. “If you’re not in a good place mentally, you’re not going to be in a good place in the bedroom.”
Dr. Stieglitz said some of her patients have also been concerned about whether COVID-19 will impact their fertility, even though there is no scientific evidence to support this myth. Some men who have recovered from the virus have had reduced testosterone levels, but further research needs to be done to determine whether this is a permanent or temporary side effect.
In the meantime, Dr. Stieglitz is encouraging her patients to take care of their physical and mental health as the country continues to weather COVID-19.
“Maintaining good sexual health starts with knowing your own body and not being afraid to ask for help,” she said.
To set up an appointment with the Men’s Sexual Health Program at Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center, call 904.202.7300 or request an appointment at baptistmdanderson.com. For more information on COVID-19 vaccines, visit baptistjax.com/covid19vaccine.