As a man, your sexual performance is a matter of pride, as is your appearance. If you had to choose between losing your hair or your sexual stamina which would you choose? Unfortunately, for many men, it is not a choice at all – it is a one-two-punch to the ego that they are forced to struggle with on a daily basis.
According to recent statistics, roughly 40% of men in their forties suffer from erectile dysfunction and that number increases to 50% for men in their fifties. The American Hair Loss Association states that by the age of 50, as many as 85% of men will have experienced hair thinning or some degree of hair loss. Both of these statistics are disheartening, even shocking, but their similarity begs the question – is there a link between erectile dysfunction and hair loss?
Understanding the Basics of ED and Hair Loss
Many men understand erectile dysfunction as an inability to achieve an erection, but it is more than that. Erectile dysfunction is a combination of symptoms including low libido and poor circulation which makes it difficult to achieve and maintain an erection firm enough for sex. It is completely normal to occasionally experience some degree of sexual dysfunction but when it becomes an ongoing issue it has the potential to impact your self-confidence and your relationships.
Hair loss, though it is an entirely different condition, can also impact your confidence which can lead to problems in your personal, professional, and social life. There are a number of different types of hair loss, though the three most common are androgenic alopecia (also known as male pattern baldness), telogen effluvium, and alopecia areata. Though the underlying cause may vary, most hair loss conditions result in the overall thinning of hair which can eventually progress to the actual loss of hair.
What Are the Causes and Risk Factors?
Erectile dysfunction and hair loss are two completely different problems but the conditions that contribute to each overlap in some interesting ways. For erectile dysfunction, causes can be divided into two categories – medical and psychosocial. Medical causes for ED generally involve poor circulation resulting from any number of health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. Psychosocial causes for ED typically involve mental health conditions like depression or anxiety as well as stress or relationship problems.
The causes of hair loss are generally related to genetics, hormonal changes, certain medical conditions, or medications. For example, some people inherit a sensitivity to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone which causes the hair follicles to shrink and shed prematurely. Other factors that may trigger hair loss include extreme stress or physical trauma, changes in hormones, and poor circulation to the scalp. Some of the same health problems that contribute to ED may also play a role in triggering hair loss, though this is typically related to the medications used to treat those conditions – examples include blood thinners to treat heart disease and beta blockers to reduce blood pressure.
Not only do many of the causes for ED and hair loss overlap, but there are similarities in the risk factors for each condition as well. Age is one of the main risk factors for erectile dysfunction and it is certainly a contributing factor for many types of hair loss. By the age of 35, as many as 40% of men have noticeable hair loss – that number jumps to 65% by age 60 and 80% by age 80. By the age of 40, about 40% of men are affected by erectile dysfunction and that number increases to 70% by the age of 70. Medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure are a strong contributing factor for both ED and hair loss as well, especially when medications for these conditions become involved.
Hormones are another major contributing factor that overlaps between ED and hair loss. For hair loss in men, the primary hormone involved is dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a by-product of testosterone which triggers changes in hair thinning and growth. Testosterone is also heavily involved in erectile dysfunction. Combined with poor circulation, low testosterone levels significantly increase a man’s risk for developing erectile dysfunction.
Is There Really a Link?
Though it may not be accurate to say that erectile dysfunction causes hair loss or vice versa, there does seem to be a strong link between these two conditions. Not only do the risk factors for each overlap, but certain medical and lifestyle factors such as poor circulation, unhealthy diet, and underlying medical problems are a common link between the two as well.
When you’re struggling with issues like erectile dysfunction and hair loss, it is easy to turn to medications for help. Unfortunately, many medications come with a high risk for side effects and many of them don’t work. You may, however, be able to make some positive improvements for both conditions by making certain changes to your diet. A diet high in fat and calories but low in nutrients often leads to obesity and may damage your vascular function – both of these are risk factors for erectile dysfunction. This is also the kind of diet that is likely to contribute to nutritional deficiencies that may trigger hair loss.
If you’re suffering from erectile dysfunction and hair loss, know that you aren’t alone! You may also take heart in the fact that both of these conditions can be managed and, in some cases, it is possible to reverse them. Your first step is to acknowledge the problem as well as its effect on your life. Once you do this you can start taking steps toward a solution.