Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, the coronavirus sets its sights on your penis. While it’s still too early to say it’s certain, new research released shows that the coronavirus can cause erectile dysfunction (ED). Keep in mind, no two cases of the virus are the same. Many have caught COVID and had it leave their genitals alone. But, some haven’t. Here are the latest details on covid related erectile dysfunction research.
Why would the coronavirus affect an erection?
The endothelium is a thin membrane that lines the interior of our blood vessels. These cells release the compounds responsible for vasoconstriction, blood clotting, and immune function. You can find endothelial cells wherever blood flows, but especially in the heart, lungs, organs, and penis. Unfortunately, the research is showing that covid-19 interacts with these cells. Severe cases of the virus can damage this tissue and result in endothelial dysfunction.
“Our research shows that COVID-19 can cause widespread endothelial dysfunction in organ systems beyond the lungs and kidneys. The underlying endothelial dysfunction that happens because of COVID-19 can enter the endothelial cells and affect many organs, including the penis,” said study author Ranjith Ramasamy, M.D., associate professor and director of the Miller School‘s Reproductive Urology Program. “In our pilot study, we found that men who previously did not complain of erectile dysfunction developed pretty severe erectile dysfunction after the onset of COVID-19 infection.“
The World Journal of Men’s Health Study
In May 2021, The World Journal of Men’s Health published the study conducted by Dr. Ramasamy. While it only involved four men, the research is quite conclusive. All four were having penile prosthetics surgically implanted and agreed to have tissue samples collected during the procedure. Two of the men had contracted the coronavirus six to eight months prior to the study; one experienced mild covid symptoms, while the other had a serious case. Both had no previous history with erectile dysfunction until they caught covid-19. When researchers analyzed the samples, evidence of the coronavirus was found from the two men who’d had COVID-19; the other two samples had no evidence of the virus.
Photo Credit: Dr. Ranjith Ramasamy/University of Miami Health System
Ultrastructure features of penile tissue from live seroconverted COVID-19 patients. (A) Coronavirus-like spiked viral particles (arrows) visualized via TEM in the peri-vascular erectile tissue of a live patient who had previously contracted the COVID-19 virus and subsequently seroconverted. Particle diameter measurement indicated on image. (B) Coronavirus-like spiked viral particles (arrows) visualized via TEM in the peri-vascular erectile tissue of a live patient who had previously contracted the Covid-19 virus and subsequently seroconverted. Particle diameter measurement indicated on image.
Pretty early on, Italy noticed that covid was having an effect on erections, so, they started to research the subject. Sex@COVID was an anonymous, web-based questionnaire that ran from April 7 – May 4, 2020. They interviewed one hundred men regarding erectile dysfunction and found that it was 28% more common in the group that had previously contracted the coronavirus.
What this means
Unfortunately, there is significant evidence to support the theory that COVID-19 can cause long-term effects on erections. While this isn’t true for every case, it is true for some of them, and severity of illness doesn’t seem to be a factor. More research is being done on this subject but in the meantime, it’s best to take no chances; if you’ve had the coronavirus and have noticed some difficulty getting hard, talk to your doctor.