Inflamed blood vessels in the body triggered by Covid may be causing erectile dysfunction in some male patients after they have recovered from the virus, according to parts of the scientific community.
Coronavirus can damage blood vessels which then affects parts of the body the vessels supply.
Ryan Berglund, a urologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, said he had seen anecdotal evidence of the condition in those who had been infected with the virus.
“The blood vessels themselves that can become inflamed ... could cause an obstructive phenomenon and negatively impact the ability to get erections,” Mr Berglund told the LA Times.
He added: “The most concerning thing here would be that erectile dysfunction related to the disease may be an indicator of other underlying vascular disease related to Covid.”
Experts say three factors may be behind any possible connection between the virus and erectile dysfunction: cardiovascular problems, such as a disrupted blood supply; mental health problems triggered by Covid-related stress or anxiety; and poor general health which leaves people more exposed to Covid and its related symptoms.
However scientists say more research is needed before a definitive link can be established.
Research published in the World Journal of Men's Health in May suggested there was a difference in the composition of bodily tissue among those who had contracted the disease and those who had not.
Ranjith Ramasamy, director of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine's reproductive urology programme, who led the pilot study, said erectile dysfunction was one possible “adverse effect of the virus”.
The study claimed to be the first to demonstrate the presence of Covid-19 in the penis long after the initial viral infection.
However the research, which found that “men who previously did not complain of ED [erectile dysfunction] developed pretty severe ED after the onset of Covid-19 infection”, only looked at four men – two who had been infected with the virus and two who had not.
Emmanuele Jannini, professor of endocrinology and medical sexology at the University of Rome Tor Vergata in Italy, has also argued that erectile dysfunction may be a symptom of long Covid.
In an scientific article published last July co-authored by Mr Jannini, he and a group of Italian scientists said erectile dysfunction was a “likely consequence of Covid-19 for survivors, and considering the high transmissibility of the infection and the higher contagion rates among elderly men, a worrying phenomenon for a large part of affected patients”.
The study concluded that future research was needed to establish how Covid might lead to erectile dysfunction.
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