Question: Please provide information about erectile dysfunction after being sick with COVID-19. There have been jokes about it, but I need real information. My husband caught COVID-19 and even though he didn’t get too sick at the time there are still side effects that affect both of us. He doesn’t want to talk about it, but I know he’s worried about how long this will last.
Answer: As you indicated, recent studies linking COVID-19 infection to impotence have generated some late-night punchlines. For the men affected, and their sexual partners, the problem isn’t a joke. In your phone call, you mentioned that your husband wasn’t eligible to get vaccinated before he caught the disease — he didn’t meet the age limit in place at that time. Knowing that vaccination could have prevented his infection makes the aftermath of the disease even harder to bear, you said.
Early research shows that men with a history of COVID-19 are much more likely to suffer erectile dysfunction than men who never had the disease, but follow-up studies are needed to explain why — “correlation is not causation.” One study did conclude that universal vaccination against COVID-19 “could possibly have the added benefit of preventing sexual dysfunctions.”
We contacted the state Department of Health to find out how common ED is after COVID-19 infection and the long-term prognosis for men who have otherwise recovered from the virus. A spokeswoman was aware of research and provided links to summaries of early findings, at 808ne.ws/edres and 808ne.ws/ websum. However, she could not provide further details and referred us to private physicians for more information.
We reached out to urologists and sexual health specialists. Dr. Michael Krychman, chief medical officer of Revibe Men’s Health, formerly Universal Men’s Clinic, responded to our emailed questions:
Q: Is erectile dysfunction a common side effect of the COVID-19 disease in men?
A: “As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more information is being uncovered about short- and late-term complications of this respiratory infection. However, we do know there is a correlation between ED and COVID-19. Specifically, a man’s risk of ED is six times more likely if they test positive for COVID-19. Men with ED may also be more susceptible to COVID-19 infection, although other risk factors co-exist for both conditions, including obesity, older age, smoking and diabetes.”
Q: Is it temporary or permanent?
A: “While we wait for more data to confirm if there is a long-lasting impact of infection, we do know that treatments are available for ED.”
Q: So there are treatments available?
A: “Yes, and importantly, personalized treatment is necessary for ED. Individualized treatments may include medications as well as innovative techniques, such as low-intensity extracorporeal shock wave therapy (LIESWT) or platelet- rich plasma therapy (PRP), and depend on a person’s underlying medical risk factors.”
Q: Are treatments generally covered by insurance?
A: “All insurance plans are different. Patients are encouraged to check with their insurance provider to understand their individual coverage plans.”
Q: When ED does occur after COVID-19, is it generally after a serious case, or can even mild cases of COVID-19 cause this problem?
A: “Men who have had any type of COVID-19, mild or serious, should be evaluated for possible consequences of infection, which can include ED.”
Q: Could you give a better sense of whether you are seeing many cases of ED related to COVID-19 infection? Is this common, rare, something in between? Any way you could quantify it would be helpful.
A: “With the global pandemic, there is a focus on individual health and an increased awareness of ED. As we continue to receive information on the complications resulting from this infection, it is currently difficult to quantify the number of ED cases that are the result of COVID-19. However, it is not uncommon (to see) COVID-19 related ED cases. It is important to keep in mind that no matter the cause, there are a variety of treatments available to treat ED.”
So, we hope that you and other women who have called asking similar questions on behalf of their partners are encouraged that help is available. Your husband might start with a visit to his primary physician, who could refer him to a specialist if needed.
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