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Can Being Sick Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

Jan 4, 2023
Can Being Sick Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get and maintain an erection. This complex process involves the endocrine, nervous, and cardiovascular systems and is influenced by psychological and lifestyle factors such as smoking and alcohol use. Being sick affects your bodily functions and your psychological motivation for sex. So, illnesses can cause ED.

Many times, when you are sick, you feel exhausted. You may have muscle aches. You may have nasal congestion, cough, and chest congestion, which causes fatigue and difficulty breathing. It makes sense that being sick can cause temporary ED. The question is, how temporary is it?

What Is Erectile Dysfunction?

An erection occurs when blood flows into the penis and becomes trapped in spaces known as the corpora cavernosa. Pressure builds as blood fills these chambers, causing the penis to stiffen. Although this process appears simple, it requires the ability to respond to sexual stimulation, maintain adequate blood flow into the penis, and have nerves that can respond appropriately to chemical signals in the body. A breakdown in the psychological response, blood flow, nerve transmission, or brain communication can all cause ED.

As mentioned, erectile function is complex, and the process begins in the brain. Low libido, depression, performance anxiety, stress, and relationship problems can all contribute to ED. Your body is under stress when you are sick, and fatigue will put a damper on your libido.

Having a normal blood pressure and healthy blood vessel function is essential to getting and maintaining an erection. Illness causes inflammation, which can affect blood vessel function. Blood vessels entering the penis are small and may be more affected than larger vessels. In fact, ED is an early indicator of cardiovascular disease. If your ED is persistent, talk to your doctor to see if you need an evaluation of your cardiovascular health.1

What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?

Certain illnesses and medical conditions can contribute to ED, including:

  • Heart disease: ED is often a warning sign of underlying heart disease.
  • Blood vessel damage: High blood pressure and high cholesterol can damage blood vessels and nerves, leading to ED.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea: This disorder, which causes disrupted breathing during sleep, can lead to ED.2
  • Prostate cancer: Treatment for prostate cancer, such as surgery or radiation therapy, can cause ED.
  • Hormone levels: Low testosterone levels can lead to low libido and ED. High prolactin and thyroid disease can also increase your risk of ED.3
  • Nerve damage: Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes mellitus are examples of diseases that may cause nerve damage and ED.

In addition to these physical causes, psychological factors can contribute to ED, including stress, anxiety, and depression.4

Medications can also cause ED. For example, many people take antihistamines to dry up a runny nose when they have cold or flu symptoms. Antihistamine use can cause temporary ED.

What Infections Can Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

Several infections can cause erectile dysfunction (ED). These include:

  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs): Certain STIs, such as syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia, can cause inflammation and damage to the genital area, leading to ED. If the infection is the sole cause, antibiotic treatment may be an effective cure for ED. Herpes simplex viral infections are also associated with an increased risk of ED.5
  • Prostatitis: This is an inflammation of the prostate gland that can cause pain and discomfort, including difficulty with urination and ED.
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs): UTIs can cause inflammation and irritation of the urinary tract, which can lead to ED.

If you are experiencing ED and are concerned about an infection, it’s important to contact your doctor. They can help diagnose the cause of your ED and recommend appropriate treatment options.

A man and woman in bed

What Causes Temporary Erectile Dysfunction?

There are many potential causes of temporary erectile dysfunction (ED). Treating these conditions may resolve ED symptoms.

Causes of temporary ED may include:

  • Alcohol or drug use: Alcohol and certain drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, and prescription medications, can interfere with the ability to get an erection.
  • Fatigue: Being exhausted or sleep deprived can impact sexual performance and lead to temporary ED.
  • Illnesses or infections: Certain illnesses, such as the flu, can cause temporary ED. This is likely due to inflammation in blood vessels that affects blood flow.6
  • Stress: Stress and anxiety can interfere with sexual performance and cause temporary ED.
  • Relationship problems: Difficulties in a relationship, such as communication issues or resentment, can cause temporary ED.
  • Allergies and cold symptoms: A study comparing patients with and without allergic rhinitis found higher incidences of sexual dysfunction in the group with allergies. Sexual function improved when cold/allergy symptoms were treated or improved.7
  • COVID-19: ED may be one of the many sequelae of a COVID-19 infection. The odds of having ED after COVID-19 are about 20% higher. The link may be increased inflammation and blood vessel damage.

How Do You Treat Erectile Dysfunction?

There are several treatments available for ED, including:

  • Medications: Several medications can help with ED, including phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (sildenafil, tadalafil, and vardenafil). Their dosages and side effects vary, so it is important to talk with a healthcare provider to find the best medicine for erectile dysfunction (ED). 
  • Penile injectables: Combinations of medications such as those in Trimix are injected directly into the penis, minimizing side effects. Oral ED medications work for approximately 70% of men who use them. Of those who switch to injectable ED medications, 95% get and sustain an erection suitable for sexual activity. Read More: Trimix Injections for ED: The Risks and Benefits
  • Penis pumps: These devices can help draw blood into the penis, leading to an erection.
  • Penile implants: In cases where other treatments are ineffective, penile implants (artificial devices placed inside the penis) may be an option.
  • Counseling: Psychological issues, such as anxiety or depression, may contribute to ED. In these cases, counseling or therapy may be helpful.

ED is almost always treatable, depending on the underlying cause. If you are sick and you have temporary ED work on getting better first. Take it easy for a few days and recover from your illness. If your ED symptoms persist, contact your doctor or the medical professionals at Invigor Medical to learn more about your treatment options.

Looking for treatment plans for sexual health? See how Invigor Medical can help today!

Can Being Sick Cause Erectile Dysfunction?
While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.

Can Being Sick Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

Leann Poston, M.D.

Dr. Leann Poston is a licensed physician in the state of Ohio who holds an M.B.A. and an M. Ed. She is a full-time medical communications writer and educator who writes and researches for Invigor Medical. Dr. Poston lives in the Midwest with her family. She enjoys traveling and hiking. She is an avid technology aficionado and loves trying new things.


  • Ostfeld RJ, Allen KE, Aspry K, et al. Vasculogenic Erectile Dysfunction: The Impact of Diet and Lifestyle. The American Journal of Medicine. 2021;134(3):310-316. doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2020.09.033
  • Pascual M, de Batlle J, Barbé F, et al. Erectile dysfunction in obstructive sleep apnea patients: A randomized trial on the effects of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). PLoS One. 2018;13(8):e0201930. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0201930
  • Yassin AA, Saad F. Testosterone and erectile dysfunction. J Androl. Nov-Dec 2008;29(6):593-604. doi:10.2164/jandrol.107.004630
  • Seidman SN, Roose SP. The relationship between depression and erectile dysfunction. Curr Psychiatry Rep. Jun 2000;2(3):201-5. doi:10.1007/s11920-996-0008-0
  • Huang CC, Chan WL, Chen YC, et al. Herpes simplex virus infection and erectile dysfunction: a nationwide population-based study. Andrology. Mar 2013;1(2):240-4. doi:10.1111/j.2047-2927.2012.00037.x
  • Blans MC, Visseren FL, Banga JD, et al. Infection induced inflammation is associated with erectile dysfunction in men with diabetes. Eur J Clin Invest. Jul 2006;36(7):497-502. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2362.2006.01653.x
  • Kirmaz C, Aydemir O, Bayrak P, Yuksel H, Ozenturk O, Degirmenci S. Sexual dysfunction in patients with allergic rhinoconjunctivitis. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. Dec 2005;95(6):525-9. doi:10.1016/s1081-1206(10)61013-7


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