When Steven Bell caught Covid-19 this spring, he was surprised that he didn’t have a fever. Rather, it felt like a bad sinus infection. Soon, he lost his sense of smell, and went on to develop insomnia. He felt like the virus was also affecting his circulation, and would swing his arms in circles to keep the blood flowing. Then, more bafflingly, when he and his wife were intimate, he couldn’t get an erection. “It was frustrating and infuriating for me, because I knew it wasn’t working the way it should,” said Bell, a 49-year-old from Phoenix, AZ. “My ego wouldn’t accept that I was performing like an 80-year-old in the bedroom.”
Some men who have survived Covid-19 say that the virus may have impacted their ability to get or maintain an erection. That tracks with the idea that Covid-19 is a vascular disease, which Elemental senior writer Dana Smith explained at length in May, as blood flow is important for getting or maintaining an erection. Erectile dysfunction can occur at any age — and becomes more common as men get older — and may affect up to a third of all men. In the context of Covid-19, men as young as 39 have been documented to experience erectile dysfunction as they recovered from the virus.
“In order to have really great sex, you have to be able to relax. The pandemic just makes that exceedingly difficult for many people.”
Currently, there are a handful of anecdotal reports, but no hard data nor large-scale study that documents the link, if any, between Covid-19 and erectile dysfunction. But for the men experiencing such issues, they’re convinced that the erectile dysfunction was caused by the novel coronavirus, because they never had issues with arousal or performance during sex prior to contracting the virus. Hunter Wessells, MD, a urologist at the University of Washington School of Medicine, urges other practitioners to collect this data on their patients. “It’s important to study it, because the total number of people involved may be in the millions and across all age ranges,” he says.