The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant psychological and social effects on the global population. Additionally, the complete medical implications and long-term outcomes of COVID infections are not yet fully known. Since the virus was identified approximately two years ago, scientific and medical research has made great strides to understand the virus more and more.
It is understood that people who contract coronavirus recover fully after a few weeks. However, some patients continue to encounter symptoms even after their initial recovery, including those who experienced a mild version of the virus. Current research has identified at least 50 long-term side effects of COVID-19. 1 Now, new findings could suggest a connection between post COVID infections and impotence in men.
COVID’s effect on blood vessels
Coronavirus infection is known to affect the blood vessels of the lungs. Similarly, research out of John Hopkins shows the virus can damage the heart muscle and affect its function by infecting the inner surfaces of veins and arteries, which can cause inflammation, blood clots, and damage to smaller vessels, all of which reduce blood flow to the heart or other parts of the body. 2 New research suggests that the vessels that supply blood to the penis appear to be vulnerable to the same fate as other organs of the body.
Research to Know: COVID-19 & Erectile Dysfunction (ED)
- Researchers out of the Department of Urology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine first found evidence of COVID-19 in the penile tissue of men even after their recovery, six to eight months after initial infection. The study found that the men in question also had evidence of endothelial dysfunction. 3 Read the complete study here.
- In an additional study from the same university, researchers analyzed 246,990 men using a digital medical record registry to investigate the link between COVID-19 infection and erectile dysfunction. The results of this study showed that the odds of having ED were 20% greater if the patient had a previous COVID-19 infection. This study concluded that the onset of erectile dysfunction after COVID-19 infection is a likely scenario to watch for. 4
- A study published in the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation from the University of Florida found erectile dysfunction and COVID-19 share similar risk factors, including vascular disruption of integrity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. Results of this study showed that men who have had COVID are three times more likely to develop ED. It was concluded that COVID-19 and erectile dysfunction are strongly associated even after adjustment for known risk factors and demographics. 5 Read more about the study here.
- A recent study, not yet peer-reviewed, that was submitted to the journal Northwestern Medicine demonstrated post infection of the genital tract in male rhesus macaques. Utilizing PET scans, the study found that the coronavirus infected the prostate, vasculature of testicles, penis, and testicles of the subjects, two weeks after infection.6Researchers found that as the COVID infection started to clear in the animal’s lungs, after about 2 weeks, the infection in the testicles actually expanded. Additionally, it was found that blood vessels were damaged in the genitals of the monkeys. Read more about the study here.
While some answers are still inconclusive and warrant additional studies, the current findings are something for the medical community, urologists, and primary care physicians to take note of.
Clinicians should include an evaluation for erectile dysfunction in male patients with recent coronavirus infections. These patients should also be aware of the risk of developing erectile dysfunction post-COVID.
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3. Kresch E, Achua J, Saltzman R, Khodamoradi K, Arora H, Ibrahim E, Kryvenko ON, Almeida VW, Firdaus F, Hare JM, Ramasamy R. COVID-19 Endothelial Dysfunction Can Cause Erectile Dysfunction: Histopathological, Immunohistochemical, and Ultrastructural Study of the Human Penis. World J Mens Health. 2021 Jul;39(3):466-469.https://doi.org/10.5534/wjmh.210055