COVID-19 can have many impacts, both physical and psychological. One question that keeps coming up in the media and recent literature is whether there is a link between COVID-19 and erectile dysfunction.

In this article, we look at numerous studies on the associations between COVID-19 and erectile dysfunction (ED).

We also explore whether ED can increase the risk of COVID-19, potential complications of COVID-19, treatments for ED, and when to contact a doctor.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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Several studies explore COVID-19’s effects on ED.

Coronavirus data

All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information may be out of date. Visit our coronavirus hub for the most recent information on COVID-19.

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Researchers involved in a 2021 pilot study examined the penile tissues of four people, two with a history of COVID-19 infection and two without. Results suggests the two that had COVID-19 showed a presence of the virus function in their biopsies. The scientists conclude that the body’s cell dysfunction from COVID-19 infection can contribute to ED.

A 2022 statistical study involving global data of over 66 million people — excluding those that already had ED before January 2020 — indicates there is a higher chance of getting ED after COVID-19 infection. However, this study relies on statistical data from a global database instead of a blind clinical study, which is an important limitation.

Another 2022 study among 348 participants attempts to determine if COVID-19 can cause testicular damage. Comparing testosterone levels before and after COVID-19 in a 1-year span, this study suggests those positive for COVID-19 had a greater decrease in testosterone levels than those who did not get the infection.

A 2022 report looking at 693 publications in the realm of COVID-19 and ED points to compelling evidence that the virus may harm males’ health and sexual function. This includes a nearly 6-fold higher risk of getting ED.

COVID-19, mental health, and ED

One 2022 study among 156 males at the beginning of COVID-19 infection and in the month after getting COVID-19 found they had more depression and anxiety and a lower erectile function score. This could indicate that COVID-19 may result in more anxiety, which in turn increases the chance of ED.

A 2020 report explores how experiencing an infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2002 affected people’s mental health. It suggests that the infection was capable of having a long-term negative impact on mental health and that COVID-19 may be similar.

According to a 2022 report by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), people with chronic long-term depression or persistent feelings of loneliness were 81% more likely to experience hospitalization after a COVID-19 diagnosis. This suggests that COVID-19 may be a psychological risk factor for mental health.

A 2020 report states that sexual performance anxiety contributes to premature ejaculation and ED. Therefore, it seems reasonable that general anxiety may also have an effect. In fact, a 2021 study involving adult males suggests that those with anxiety disorders have a high risk of developing ED.

Further research

The above studies show an association between COVID-19, anxiety or depression, overall health, and ED.

However, people can have underlying health conditions that affect the results. Most of the studies state that more research is necessary to truly explore the link between COVID-19 and ED.

Very few studies have explored the risk of getting COVID-19 in people with ED.

One 2021 study looked at 100 participants, 25 of which were positive for a COVID-19 infection. It found that people with ED were more likely to have COVID-19 than those without ED.

This study points out that its results are preliminary and more research is necessary. It is also important to note that correlation does not equal causation.

However, there is also another viewpoint.

An older 2013 study found that males with ED have a higher chance of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD). According to a 2022 study, while scientists need to do larger studies, evidence suggests that CVD increases COVID-19 severity. This means there is an indirect association that ED may increase the risk of COVID-19.

A wide range of symptoms and complications may arise from COVID-19.

For example, a 2021 article by the NIH says that people who already have blood vessel damage, such as from diabetes, have a higher risk of developing blood clots from COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list these other potential complications:

The CDC recommend a number of ways to decrease the chance of getting COVID-19.

These include:

  • getting the vaccines, including any applicable boosters
  • wearing a well-fitting mask in public indoor areas
  • staying 6 feet away from others
  • avoiding crowds and spaces with poor ventilation
  • testing to reduce the chance of spreading the virus
  • washing hands carefully or using a hand sanitizer that contains a minimum of 60% alcohol
  • cleaning and disinfecting surfaces as necessary
  • being alert for symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath
  • following government and CDC recommendations for quarantine, isolation, and travel

The CDC also states that people with a weakened immune system should take extra precautions.

According to the National Institue of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, treatments for ED include:

  • Lifestyle changes: These may involve not smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke, limiting or avoiding alcohol consumption, stopping any illegal drug use, and increasing physical activity. Eating a healthy diet can also help people maintain a moderate body weight and reduce inflammation.
  • Counseling: ED can have a psychological effect, leading to stress or sexual anxiety. Talking with a proficient counselor or psychologist can help alleviate stress or psychological effects.
  • Oral medications: These may help in getting and maintaining erections. Examples include sildenafil, vardenafil, and tadalafil. However, most require a prescription and do not work with some other medications, such as alpha-blockers or nitrates.
  • Injectables and suppositories: These are only available by prescription. They work by transferring the drug alprostadil into the bloodstream. This triggers an erection within 10 minutes that can last up to 60 minutes.
  • Surgery: A urologist can recommend surgery to rebuild arteries to increase the penile blood flow or implant a device that helps the penis get an erection.

According to a 2020 article, other emerging treatments include low intensity shockwave therapy, stem cells, and nitrate oxide donors. However, scientists need to do long-term studies to determine their efficacy, safety, downsides, and overall results.

People with COVID-19 who have concerns about its long-term effects on their particular health condition should consult a doctor to see if there are any precautions or tests they can take. Many online health services can help people access a doctor, even if they cannot leave their house.

Similarly, those with CVD or any underlying medical condition that increases their chance of getting COVID-19 should also talk with a doctor to increase preventive measures. The CDC lists a number of conditions that pose a high risk of getting severe illness with COVID-19.

Some people may feel anxious or uncomfortable at the prospect of speaking with a doctor about ED. However, the condition is nothing to be embarrassed about, and a doctor or urologist can most likely help resolve or treat the symptoms.

Both COVID-19 and ED affect many people. Numerous studies suggest links between the two, including direct and indirect associations.

In particular, it seems that people with COVID-19 may have a higher chance of getting ED or worsening their current ED. The opposite could also be true. However, more research is necessary to determine the long-term impact.

One way to prevent ED may be to increase protection against COVID-19. There are numerous ways to do this, including wearing masks. People with a weakened immune system or ED and those experiencing complications from COVID-19 may find it helpful to speak with a doctor about their concerns.