‘Covid Dick’ is unfortunately right

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It seems that we can add sexual dysfunction to the long list of unexpected and unpleasant effects of coronavirus. Fortunately, this does not appear to be a common occurrence and there are some potential remedies that those affected can try.

This week, the Slate-run sex counseling podcast How do you do it discussed the shocking tale of an anonymous letter writer who suffered from what has become known as the “covid cock.” The author, who identified himself as a heterosexual man in his 30s, said he had become very ill and was admitted from covid-19 in July last year. After he was discharged, he began to experience erectile dysfunction (ED). Although his symptoms improved after visiting a doctor, the man reportedly was left with a glaring reminder of his ordeal. He described himself as above average in penis size before covid-19, saying that his penis had now shrunk by about 1.5 inches and that he had “been decidedly smaller than average.”

The podcast hosts, to their credit, also interviewed a couple of urologists, who rightly noted that there is a clear trail of evidence linking covid-19 to erectile or sexual dysfunction. A study last November, e.g. found that men with covid-19 had about three times the risk of developing a new case of ED than those who did not get covid-19. Some studies have suggested that the risk may be almost six times higher, yet another discretion is smaller, indicating a 20% increased risk. ONE small percentage of people with long-term covid, including women, have also reported sexual dysfunction as one of their symptoms. And sometimes ED can actually lead to shrinkage, especially if it is caused by physical damage and scarring that causes the penis to stop being regularly erected.

There are a few theories on how covid-19 can cause ED. The infection may reach penile tissue and directly damage to the surrounding blood vessels. It can also be due to the indirect effects of infection on the immune system, which can trigger harmful inflammation. (An overreacting immune system and damage to blood vessels are also those main suspects behind “covid-toes.”) And the experience of hospitalization in severe cases can take a toll on the body, penis included. The risk of ED from vascular damage is likely to be greater in people who already have other relevant health conditions that may affect the circulation, such as type 2 diabetes. Many cases of ED can also be chalked up to stress and anxiety, and covid survivors unfortunately also have a greater risk of experiencing it.

That said, age is by far the biggest risk factor for ED, with as much as 70% of men experience a level of it in their 70s. And while we do not appear to have solid data on the actual prevalence of covid-related ED, it does not appear to affect a large proportion of men. The November study showed, for example, that slightly less than 5% of the men in the sample were diagnosed with ED after covid-19.

As the Slate hosts note, there are readily available treatments for ED, such as the drug sildenafil (Viagra). And even a shrunken penis can be treated or prevented through what a urologist refers to as “penis rehab”, which can involve stretching exercises and / or penis pump devices. So not all hope is gone if you are worried about the dreaded covid cock. And for the record, there is no proof at this time of a link between ED and being vaccinated for covid-19.

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