We need more studies to confirm it, but it looks like there is another important reason to get the COVID-19 vaccine — it could help prevent erectile dysfunction.
As soon as doctors realized that the virus threatened the endovascular system, we started wondering if COVID-19 infection could cause ED. And anecdotally, since the pandemic began in March 2020, urologists like myself had noticed an uptick in patients who were experiencing erectile dysfunction.
But while we suspected that COVID and ED might be related, it hadn't been proven yet.
So, getting the news that COVID might cause episodes of ED was good news for doctors like myself who are trying to convince vaccine-skeptics of the benefits of getting the jab.
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And let me, as a doctor who helps men who have erectile dysfunction, affirm that there is no — repeat no — scientific evidence to support rapper Nicki Minaj's assertion to her 22.6 million Twitter followers this week that the COVID vaccines can cause impotency or "swollen testicles."
In a study published in July, researchers in Italy called more than 2,000 men on the phone to ask a series of questions about their health and ED. All of the men had tested positive for COVID-19.
So far, it's only one study, but the evidence strongly suggests that ED and COVID‐19 are strongly associated. COVID-19 appears to increase the chances of developing erectile dysfunction, and erectile dysfunction appears to be a marker of increased susceptibility to infection. A double whammy.
ED is often symptom of other health issues
Why are they related? COVID affects the pulmonary microvasculature. Erectile dysfunction is often a reflection of other health issues. For example, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and coronary diseases all affect the internal part of the arteries, or the endothelium. Endothelium are the cells that line the internal part of the arteries and veins.
For non-doctors, that means that these types of diseases affect the relationship between the blood, the vessels themselves, tissues and oxygenation. The prevalence and severity of ED and COVID are higher in men with hypertension, obesity, diabetes and a history of vascular disease. We hope that getting vaccinated against COVID will also prevent episodes of ED.
As for the vaccine, it helps to prepare the immune system for a better response for when the body comes in contact with the virus. That means that if you get COVID, and you are vaccinated, either you won't have symptoms or the symptoms that you have will be significantly decreased.
Take steps to prevent heart disease
Remember that COVID per se may not cause erectile dysfunction, but may be an added factor to other conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia or obesity.
In addition to getting vaccinated, we need to take measures to prevent heart disease and related conditions, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control, is the leading cause of death of men and women in the US, across ethnic groups.
Doctors like me hope that this preliminary news is one more tool we can use to persuade those hesitant to get vaccinated to take another look at the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccines.