COVID-19 can cause long-term erectile damage, too

COVID-19 kills a lot of people. But one of the scarier things about the disease is how many of the survivors have continued to suffer long-term damages, many months after the actual virus has left their system. This includes heart damage and mental health problems — and now, it turns out, that COVID-19 can ravage penises with lasting harm, too.

This certainly makes some sense, considering that COVID-19 is a vascular disease, and, well, penises are intimately connected to your veins. Stress can also be a factor, with COVID-19 or an erection. Wudan Yan, co-founder of the Writer's Co-Op, has some more details over at elemental:

Based on what scientists know about SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, it's possible that the virus could have direct effects on erectile dysfunction. Successfully getting and maintaining an erection not only depends on mood, but also testosterone, blood flow, and nerves. In the penis, nerves are critically dependent on a fishnet of blood vessels to get an erection. SARS-CoV-2 exploits the ACE2 receptor, which is found in both nerve cells and endothelial cells lining blood vessels. ACE2 is also found in the cells of the testicles, the organ in men that makes testosterone, a hormone that fuels a man's sex drive. Li and his colleagues have found that the virus infects testicular cells during the acute phase of Covid-19, which means the virus may be impacting testosterone production.

On top of the effects in the penis, Covid-19 affects the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, which, in turn, are critical for sexual function, says Li.

Wessells notes that underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, inactivity, and smoking, may predispose men to developing ED, and that at least a few of those are associated with a higher risk of contracting Covid-19 as well. Once someone contracts Covid-19, that may be the "straw that broke the camel's back for the ED," Wessells says.

Fortunately, for men who suffer from erectile dysfunction, many treatments, such as Viagra, should help even if Covid-19 has damaged the vasculature, says Wessells.

As it stands, there's no, umm, hard data regarding the number of men dealing with this problem. But Yan was able to speak with at least 3 of them for the article. That's already an impressive number, considering how much shame there is around the topic of erectile dysfunction — and it means there are many more people out there dealing with the same thing.

I think the takeaway here is clear: wear a mask or lose your boner.

Yes, Covid Penis Is a Thing [Wudan Yan / elemental]

Image: Nick Youngson / Alpha Stock Images (CC BY-SA 3.0