Over the course of more than one year, COVID-19 has spread across the world, infecting tens of millions of people and making its way to every continent.
Although researchers are constantly learning more about the effects of COVID-19, its common symptoms are already well known. Most people experience symptoms such as fever, breathing difficulties, fatigue, cough, headaches and, most notably, a loss of taste or smell.
More recently, research has found that COVID-19’s effects on the vascular system may cause erectile dysfunction (ED).
Below, we’ve looked at the most recent research to understand how COVID-19 may affect your sexual health and performance, including your erectile health.
We’ve also explained what you may be able to do if you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19 and have sexual performance issues since catching the virus.
Erections are all about blood flow. When you feel sexually aroused, impulses from your nervous system prompt the soft tissue inside your penis to relax, allowing your body to pump extra blood into the penile tissue and give you an erection.
As blood flows in, the fibrous membrane that surrounds your penile tissue tightens, trapping the extra blood in your penis and helping you to stay hard while you have sex.
Erectile dysfunction is often linked to health issues that affect your blood flow. For example, ED is a common sign of cardiovascular health issues, including high blood pressure (hypertension) and clogged blood vessels.
Although there have been numerous reports of ED in men with COVID-19, right now we simply don’t know why COVID-19 seems to cause erection issues for some men.
Currently, researchers have several theories for why COVID-19 appears to cause ED for some men who catch the virus.
One of these is that the hyperinflammatory response and immunosuppression triggered by the virus can damage the vascular system -- a factor that may affect blood flow to the penis during foreplay and sex.
Another is that COVID-19 may cause testicular damage in some men. Testosterone, which is produced in the testes, plays a major role in sexual desire. It also has a modulating effect on the function of the endothelium (a membrane found inside the heart and blood vessels).
A third possibility is that COVID-19’s tendency to worsen existing cardiovascular health issues might contribute to ED.
This may be a direct effect or an indirect one linked to medications such as antihypertensives and beta blockers. Both of these medications are commonly used in COVID-19 patients, with both medications linked to sexual performance issues.
Finally, COVID-19 is a serious illness that can often cause severe psychiatric stress. Both the general public and people directly affected by COVID-19 are expected to experience a higher rate of psychological issues such as depression and anxiety following the pandemic.
These conditions can directly affect your sexual health, including your general desire for sex and your sexual performance. Simple things, like anxiety about spreading COVID-19 to your partner, can also make sex a more stressful, less enjoyable experience.
All of these factors may play a role in erectile dysfunction, and all are serious concerns if you have COVID-19.
Erectile dysfunction is an extremely common issue for men of all ages. Research shows that about 30 million men in the United States are affected by ED.
Because ED is so common, experiencing ED for the first time does not necessarily mean that you’ve recently caught COVID-19. As we’ve talked about in our guide to the causes of erectile dysfunction, ED is caused by a diverse range of physical and psychological factors.
If you’ve noticed symptoms and think you may have COVID-19, it’s important to get tested and keep track of your symptoms.
If you develop any severe symptoms, or experience difficulty breathing or other emergency warning signs, it’s important to seek emergency medical care immediately.
You can find more information about responding to COVID-19 on the official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
If you’ve recently recovered from COVID-19 and notice that you have erectile dysfunction, your first step should be to talk to your healthcare provider.
Erectile dysfunction often improves with changes to your lifestyle. As your health improves, you may notice that you’re more able to get and maintain an erection.
If you don’t notice any improvement after recovering from COVID-19, using ED medication may help you to maintain an erection and improve your sexual performance.
Currently, several FDA-approved medications are available to treat erectile dysfunction. These include sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra®, AKA generic Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis®), vardenafil (Levitra®) and avanafil (Stendra®).
These medications require a prescription. It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms, any history of ED you may have and your general health, especially if you have recently been affected by COVID-19.
We offer generic versions of many common ED medications online, following a consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.
Although research into the effects of COVID-19 on erectile health and sexual performance isn’t very comprehensive right now, some experts believe that COVID-19 may cause ED.
If you’ve recently been affected by COVID-19 and now find it difficult to develop or maintain an erection, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider. They’ll be able to provide more information about your options for treating ED as you recover from the virus.