Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 11/25/2022
Repeat after us: Erectile dysfunction is not abnormal. In fact, it affects around 30 million American men every year. ED can be caused by a variety of things — age, cardiovascular issues, diabetes, alcohol consumption, obesity and more. One thing you may not have considered is… Water intake. Can dehydration cause erectile dysfunction? You might be surprised.
From childhood, we have had the virtues of staying hydrated extolled to us by everyone — our parents, our coaches, our friends and partners, that one weird guy at that music festival that one time (but he was right — we definitely needed water). Everyone has the same message: stay hydrated.
And you know what? They’re right. Staying hydrated is important. Water is essential to things like our skin health, cognitive function, organ function, our sleep quality and so many things in between.
And believe it or not, dehydration can affect your erectile function. Here’s what the research says.
ED is defined as not being able to get or maintain an erection firm enough for sex.
Like many conditions, ED can be temporary — meaning that it just happens occasionally — or it can be chronic — meaning a man consistently has difficulty getting and maintaining erections over long periods of time.
One potential cause of temporary ED is dehydration.
When a man gets aroused, his brain needs to send signals to blood vessels in the penis. As blood flow increases, it gets trapped in two long chambers in the penis called the corpora cavernosa.
The nerves of the penis and blood flow are hugely important parts of getting and maintaining an erection. If any of your bodily processes aren’t working properly, it can impact your ability to get hard.
You probably already know that hydration is a key part of being healthy. Drinking water helps regulate your body temperature, keeps your organs functioning properly, lubricates your joints, and more.
When it comes specifically to ED, when you have a great volume of blood cells and plasma, it’s easier to get an erection. Hydration helps keep the volume of these things high.
So, if you’re dehydrated and your volume of blood cells and plasma dips, it may make it difficult to get an erection.
The short answer: yes, getting adequate water is important for sexual intercourse.
As mentioned above, dehydration can impact your blood volume and plasma levels. When these levels are low, it can make it hard to get an erection.
But that’s not the only issue. When you’re dehydrated — even if it’s mild dehydration — you may feel dizziness, weakness and fatigue (more on that in a bit).
While those aren’t directly tied to sexual dysfunction, those things can sure make it hard to get in the mood.
Because of this, you may notice your sex drive dips when you’re dehydrated.
Drinking water and being adequately hydrated are important factors when it comes to sexual desire and optimal erection function.
But, before we get into the signs of dehydration, it’s helpful to know what can cause it.
Obviously, not drinking enough water is a primary cause of dehydration.
In addition to this, there are certain conditions that can make you lose water quickly. For example, if you’re sick and vomiting or have diarrhea, you may need to drink even more water than normal to replace what you’re losing.
Older individuals also are more at risk for dehydration. This is because, as we age, the body’s fluid reserves shrink.
Signs of your water fluid levels being low include:
Dizziness or weakness
High heart rate
Low blood pressure
Dark yellow pee
If you’re experiencing erectile dysfunction due to dehydration, the best thing to do is…
… Get hydrated. We know! You’re as shocked as we are.
Generally, it’s recommended that men drink about 16 glasses of water a day. Basic water is optimal, but you can also count water flavored with things like cucumbers or berries, as well as tea.
What doesn’t count: Sugary drinks or alcohol — which aren’t all that healthy for you.
If you feel adequately hydrated and are still experiencing ED, you may want to schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider.
You can talk to them about the possibility of taking an ED medication. One of the most common ED prescription medications is sildenafil, which is the generic version of Viagra®.
Sildenafil is a phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor (PDE5 inhibitor). These work by relaxing the muscles in the penis to increase blood flow during arousal.
Other common ED medications include tadalafil, vardenafil and avanafil.
A medical professional can help you assess the best ED medication for your specific situation. Hims offers online consultations, which makes it easy to connect with a healthcare provider to assess what your needs may be.
Staying hydrated is an important part of any wellness routine. Proper hydration helps keep your joints lubricated, your organs functioning and more.
When you’re dehydrated, your body doesn’t function as it should. This could potentially lead to erectile dysfunction. This is because hydration helps keep blood cell and plasma levels up. In turn, this helps blood flow through your body.
To get an erection, you need a good amount of blood to flow into the penis. So, if you’re dehydrated and blood cell levels are low, you may not get enough blood to flow into your penis for it to get hard enough for sex.
Ideally, should drink at least 16 glasses of water a day to stay hydrated. If your ED issues persist despite being well-hydrated, you may need to speak with a medical professional.
They can assess what’s going on and may be able to suggest ED medications (like sildenafil or tadalafil), which can improve your sexual function.