Doctors at the University of Rome found that 28% of men with an average age of 33 who had COVID-19 said they were experiencing erectile dysfunction.
According to the Daily Mail, only 9 of the 100 men surveyed who did not have COVID-19 reported problems with sexual function. The researchers said that ED likely occurs because of inflammation caused by the virus that narrows the blood vessels leading to the genitals. This obstructs the blood flow and hinders sexual response.
Another reason why men experience ED from COVID-19 is that the virus responsible for the illness binds to ACE2 receptors in the body. That is how it gains entry to our cells.
“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 also in the reproductive organs,” said Dr. Channa Jayasena, a consultant in reproductive endocrinology and andrology at Hammersmith and St. Mary’s hospitals in London. “When COVID-19 binds to these receptors, they can no longer perform in their normal function.”
According to the Daily Mail, ACE2 receptors are found abundantly in the testes. Dr. Jayasena suggested that COVID-19 may also lower the testosterone levels in men who become infected. While this can present sexual issues, lower T levels also affects overall general health.
Last November, researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine said that some men with COVID-19 suffered from “impaired spermatogenesis,” or the production of sperm, which could result in lower sperm count, according to a study they published in the World Journal of Men’s Health.
According to the New York Post, the scientists examined tissue from the autopsies of 6 men who died from the COVID-19 infection and found the virus was still in their testicles. Further research found that men who had COVID-19 and went on to test negative for the virus, still had the pathogen in their testes. According to the National Library of Medicine, Chinese researchers published a study that had similar findings.
“So, the patient tested negative and was asymptomatic after having COVID-19 but still showed the presence of the virus inside the testes. The finding is novel, remarkable, and certainly worthy of further exploration,” said Dr. Dr. Ranjith Ramasamy, a urologist and one of the authors of the study, according to the Post. “I’m fairly certain, just like mumps, about 20 to 30% of men are going to have some sort of affected fertility in their future.”
Another study published in The Aging Male found that men with lower testosterone levels could be at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and that the virus itself could cause lower T levels. Mike Kirby, a former professor at the University of Hertfordshire in the U.K., and the editor of The Aging Male, said that doctors should test the testosterone levels of their male patients with COVID-19 and supplement if needed.
Kirby said that low T levels are associated with increased cardiovascular risks, type 2 diabetes, muscular weakness and depression, loss of sexual desire and fertility, according to the Daily Mail.
Dr. Jayasena suggested that the lower sex hormone levels may be temporary.
“If you had severe flu, then it might take at least another several weeks for your testes to start working properly,” he said, according to the Daily Mail. “A man’s sperm count can drop to zero during flu and it can take three months to recover fully. So I think it’s reasonable to suggest a similarly severe illness such as COVID-19 would do at least that.”
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