By Rozalynn S. Frazier
COVID-19 has been a troublemaker since it came onto the scene. You know all about the shortness of breath, fever, conjunctivitis, dizziness, delirium, fatigue and sore throat. And you’ve heard about COVID toes, hair loss, and lingering fatigue.
Now, there’s the possibility the novel coronavirus may be linked to erectile dysfunction (ED), which is the inability to get and keep an erection firm enough for sexual activity.
Though first mentioned this summer, the idea resurged earlier this month when Dena Grayson, MD, PhD, cited ED as a potential complication of COVID on an a Chicago NBC affiliate broadcast. And while there haven’t large-scale studies to date, considering it may inhibit your penis’ ability to stand at attention, you may still want to take note.
What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?
First a little refresher on how erections work when things are going as you want them to. “The penis is made of three cylinders,” explains Howard Aubert, MD, a board certified urologist, and assistant clinical professor of surgery at the University of California – Riverside. “The two on top are filled with an expandable spongy tissue, and encased with a firm outer wrapping. The one on the bottom is responsible for carrying urine out from the bladder. During sexual arousal, a nervous system response initiates a series of events that stimulate your arteries to bring blood into the spongy tissue of the cylinders. They expand and engorge until the outer casing gets tight and blocks blood flow from leaving the penis.” That’s what you know as an erection.
“The nerves have to release a healthy amount of nitric oxide and the blood vessels have to be able to open wide enough so that the blood can flow in at a fast enough rate.” adds Jessica Yih, MD, a urologist who specializes in men’s sexual health at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. All of this needs to happen in order to have a healthy erection. And in plenty of men, it does.