Chlamydia and erectile dysfunction: What's the link?
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can cause long-term health problems. Many people with chlamydia have no symptoms and are unaware that they have the infection.
If it goes untreated, chlamydia can lead to:
- chronic prostatitis in men, causing pain and erectile dysfunction (ED)
- an increased risk of getting HIV
- permanent infertility in women and a painful condition called pelvic inflammatory disease
In this article, we explore the link between chlamydia and ED. We also describe when to get tested, how chlamydia is treated, and which other conditions can cause ED.
Does chlamydia cause ED?
If chlamydia infects the prostate, it may lead to ED.
Chlamydia can infect the prostate, causing a complication called prostatitis, which can lead to ED.
If chlamydia enters the genital tract, it can spread to nearby organs. In males, chlamydia bacteria can infect the urethra, which is the tube that carries sperm out of the body. Over time, the bacteria can travel through the urethra to the prostate gland.
If the prostate becomes infected and inflamed, it may restrict the flow of blood to the penis, which can make getting or keeping an erection difficult.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States report that chlamydia can spread to a sexual partner, even when a male does not ejaculate during the encounter.
Chlamydia often causes no symptoms. In some people, symptoms appear several weeks after the initial infection, and by then a person may have spread chlamydia to someone else.
When chlamydia does cause symptoms, they can include:
- a burning sensation when urinating
- discharge from the penis or vagina
- pain or swelling in the testicles, which is less common
Chlamydia can indirectly cause ED. This does not mean that a person with ED necessarily has chlamydia or another STI.
If an individual is having problems getting or keeping an erection, they should discuss it with a doctor, who can advise about treatment.
Condoms can help prevent STIs.
Anyone who is sexually active is at risk for getting chlamydia. The CDC estimate that 2.6 million cases of infection occur each year in the U.S.
Practicing safe sex can prevent chlamydia and its complications. A person can do this by:
- using condoms or dental dams correctly every time they have sex
- only having sex with people who have been tested and treated for any STIs
- abstaining from vaginal, oral, and anal sex
Treatment for chlamydia and ED
A chlamydia test may involve a urine sample or a swab of the inside of the urethra. If chlamydia is confirmed, the person should begin treatment right away.
It is essential to discuss the diagnosis with any sexual partners, including past partners who may have contracted and spread the infection. Some clinics offer to call these past partners and inform them, without naming anyone involved.
Informing sexual partners about the diagnosis will allow them to get tested and begin treatment, if necessary.
A doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat chlamydia. It is crucial to take all the antibiotics as prescribed. Failing to finish a full course may mean that some bacteria survive and cause another infection.
A complete course of antibiotics can cure the infection causing prostatitis, which may relieve ED symptoms.
Becoming infected with chlamydia multiple times is possible. Completing a course of treatment will clear up an infection, but it does not make a person immune.
Anyone diagnosed with chlamydia should avoid all sexual contact for 7 days after taking the single-dose antibiotic or while taking the 7-day treatment course.
Can other conditions cause ED?
Diabetes may be a contributing factor for ED.
Physical, psychological, and emotional factors can contribute to ED. Just a handful of the many health conditions that can cause it include:
Stress and certain medications can also cause ED, as can STI-related anxiety and discomfort.
In addition, authors of a study from 2011 found that men aged 40–59 with HIV had significantly higher rates of ED.
When to see a doctor
A person with any of the following symptoms should seek medical advice:
- problems getting or keeping an erection
- burning during urination
- pain during sex
- discharge from the penis
- a rash in the genitals
Only a healthcare professional can properly diagnose and treat STIs. For people who are sexually active, regular testing for chlamydia is an important part of staying healthy.
Family doctors and some medical clinics offer STI testing. While untreated chlamydia can cause a number of health complications, the condition is curable.
Regular medical checkups and STI testing can help to prevent and treat ED and other problems resulting from chlamydia.