A new study has revealed that male Covid survivors are at risk of erectile dysfunction.
The study by Turkish scientists was published in the International Journal of Impotence Research last month.
Researchers have found that dysfunction of the endothelium — or the membranes that line blood vessels — and direct testicular damage, caused by Covid, as well as the burdening mental health effects of the pandemic, have led to a rise in erectile dysfunction.
The Print quoting another study, not yet peer-reviewed, has found remnants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the lungs, prostate, penis, and testicles of rhesus macaque monkeys, two weeks post-infection. The team discovered that as lung infection started to clear out after 14 days, the infection in the monkeys’ testicles actually increased. Blood vessels in the genitalia were also found to be damaged.
A 2021 study also found that in a limited sample size of just two infected men, and two healthy men for controls, there were observable viral particles and RNA in the blood vessels in the penis.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get and sustain an erection when sexually engaged. It can be caused by various physical conditions, diseases, and hormonal imbalances, as well as psychological factors — usually a combination of more than one factor. The mechanism is complex and involves neural, vascular, and hormonal signaling systems. Hampering of these, as well as psychological systems, can induce ED.
ED is often induced by auto-immune responses, such as inflammatory bowel disease, kidney disease, and psoriasis, among others. These produce inflammatory cytokines, the proteins that modulate the immune response, such as TNF-α and IL-6, which are known to worsen sexual dysfunction.
Other studies have suggested that since ED and cardiovascular disease seem so closely tied, severe inability to get or sustain an erection could also be an indicator of heart disease.
Since a large part of ED is psychological, experts have called for multidisciplinary and integrated approaches to treating it, with a mix of biomedical and psychological interventions such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and sex therapy.