Men who contract Covid-19 triple their risk of developing erectile dysfunction, according to new research.
Physicians at the University of Rome asked 100 men, with an average age of 33 years, to report recent problems with sexual functioning.
Nine percent of those who had not had Covid said they had had problems.
But among those infected, it was 28 percent, according to a report in the journal Andrology.
Researchers said the virus is known to cause inflammation in the endothelium – the lining of blood vessels throughout the body.
Arteries that supply the genitals are small and narrow, so any inflammation can disrupt blood flow and hinder a man’s sexual response.
This is the latest research showing that in many ways men do worse with a Covid infection than women – they are more prone to severe symptoms and 1.7 times more likely to die from the virus.
Some experts have suggested that differences in levels of the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone may partly explain this.
Men who contract Covid-19 triple their risk of developing erectile dysfunction, University of Rome study shows
On average, women in the UK live 3.7 years longer than men, even in non-Covid times – and estrogen is believed to be key, improving women’s immune systems and helping protect the cardiovascular system.
High testosterone levels can increase some risks to the cardiovascular system, which is under tremendous pressure from the coronavirus.
A controversial new book claims that plastic pollution diminishes masculinity
Could a poisonous soup of chemicals in everyday life destroy men’s ability to conceive children?
That’s the latest claim by an American expert, Dr. Shanna Swan, who made headlines in 2017 with research suggesting that human sperm counts are plummeting.
Dr. Swan, a professor of environmental medicine and public health at the Icahn School of Medicine, New York, made her original claim in the journal Human Reproduction Update.
Her analysis of previous research findings concluded that men’s reproductive problems in Western countries are increasing at least 1 percent per year.
These problems include decreasing sperm count, decreasing testosterone levels, and increasing testicular cancer rates.
Now, in a new book entitled Count Down, Dr. Swan blames this crisis on male babies who are harmed in the womb by their mothers’ exposure to hormone-altering chemicals in food and many consumer goods.
These chemicals include phthalates (used to make plastics more flexible and found in hundreds of products, including toys, detergents, food packaging, personal care products and electronic appliances), bisphenol A (in plastic food packaging), and flame retardants (used in furniture, carpets and cars).
Dr. Swan says these chemicals were produced in increasing amounts from the 1950s, after which male fertility began to decline.
“Sperm count has decreased by 50 percent in just 40 years,” she says. “It’s hard to deny how alarming this is.”
But new research offers yet another insight: not about how our sex hormones can help us fight Covid, but how the virus can disrupt its production and cause knock-on effects.
“ One of the devious ways the virus enters the body is by binding its peak protein to a receptor found at fairly high levels, not only in the lungs, but also in the reproductive organs, ” explains Dr. Channa Jayasena. a consultant in reproductive endocrinology and andrology. at Hammersmith Hospital in London.
“If Covid-19 binds to these receptors, they can no longer perform their normal function.”
These ACE2 receptors are found throughout the body, mostly in the lungs and cardiovascular system, but also at high levels in the testes.
While the evidence is thin, Dr. Jayasena suggests that Covid-19 may leave men with decreased testosterone levels and also affect women’s menstrual cycles and menopause.
All of this has a potential impact on both fertility and general health, as sex hormones are involved in processes throughout the body, from muscle growth to immune function.
A review of 24 studies on male fertility and Covid-19, published last year in the World Journal of Men’s Health, noted that patients who had moderate Covid infection had significantly lower sperm levels, often months after recovery, compared to those in whom infection had been only mild.
But which came first, the low sperm count or the infection?
Soon after, another study published in the journal The Aging Male showed that not only are men with lower testosterone levels at higher risk of getting Covid-19, but that the virus can indeed lower men’s testosterone levels.
Mike Kirby, a former professor of general practice in Hertfordshire and editor of The Aging Male, suggests that this means that doctors should be ready to monitor testosterone levels in male Covid patients and give testosterone replacement if needed.
He says that without it, those men are at higher risk for cardiovascular problems, type 2 diabetes, muscle weakness and depression, and loss of sexual desire, function, and fertility.
While this may be true, it’s not yet clear whether the coronavirus affects sex hormone levels more than any other viral infection, says Dr. Jayasena, adding that at least any decrease in those hormones could be temporary.
“If you’ve had a severe flu, it may take at least a few more weeks for your testicles to start working properly,” he says.
A man’s sperm count can drop to zero during the flu, and it can take three months to fully recover. So I think it’s reasonable to suggest that a similarly serious illness like Covid would at least do that. ‘