Men who get infected with COVID-19 are three times as likely to develop erectile dysfunction, according to new research by doctors at the University of Rome.

The study asked 100 men, with an average age of 33, to report any problems with sexual function. Nine percent of those who had not contracted COVID said they had encountered issues, compared to a whopping 28% of previously COVID-infected men.

COVID-19 can apparently cause inflammation in the endothelium, which lines the blood vessels of the body. Arteries that supply blood to the genitals are smaller and narrower than most, so any amount of inflammation may cause sexual response issues, according to researchers.

In addition to sexual dysfunction, men often experience more serious COVID-related symptoms, and are 1.7 times more likely to die of the virus than women. Some experts suggest that a difference in oestrogen and testosterone levels may explain this discrepancy.

However, even in non-COVID times, women in the UK live 3.7 years longer than men do. Oestrogen is thought to have some role in this – as it can improve immune function and guard against cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, high testosterone levels can increase one’s risk of cardiovascular disease, which can complicate a person’s response to COVID-19.

COVID-19 may leave men with lower testosterone levels and alter women’s menstrual cycles and menopause.

A study published last year in the World Journal of Men’s Health claimed that severe COVID infection could decrease sperm concentration, and this effect could last for months after recovery.

Additionally, another study published in The Aging Male showed that men with low testosterone levels might be at a higher risk of contracting the virus, and the virus could, indeed, lower men’s testosterone levels.

Any lowering of hormone levels may simply be a temporary effect of the virus, and it is not yet clear whether COVID has a greater effect on these levels compared to any other virus.

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