When it comes to erectile dysfunction (ED) there are some common causes that are well known (such as heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes)—but they’re not the only causes. Quite often, even the medications used to treat these conditions can cause ED as well. However, ED can also be a symptom of another condition that may be otherwise less noticeable or undiagnosed. While ED is often treated as an independent issue, it’s a good idea to look into the other conditions or illnesses one may be experiencing because there can be a correlation.
Stress & Anxiety
One’s mental state has a strong relationship with sexual functionality. The origins of a person’s stressors could be just about anything, such as body image, or relationship issues. The psychological distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic due to isolation, social distancing, lack of work or funds, or loss of friends or loved ones could be expected to lead to increased sexual anxieties and therefore, ED. When someone is feeling overwhelmed or inadequate, the risk of performance anxiety and resulting ED can increase. Once someone is in this mindset, a cycle of ongoing ED can form. Experiencing ED can lead to behavioral issues, such as excessive alcohol use, illicit drug use, or tobacco use that contribute to anxiety and further incidences of ED. It’s important to recognize when a cycle such as this is happening, and work on treating the initial anxieties and stressors to determine whether there is relief of the ED symptoms.
Hyper- and Hypothyroidism
The thyroid is a gland located in the front of the neck, wrapped around the trachea. The thyroid secretes hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), that influence metabolism, energy levels, growth and development, and body temperature, and more. Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, is the production of too many hormones, which can lead to weight loss, irregular heartbeat, sweating, and irritability. On the other hand, hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, is when the thyroid gland is not producing enough hormones, which can lead to fatigue, weight gain, mood swings, and lethargy. Both conditions have been linked to ED, and in 2008, a study found that an overwhelming 79 percent of the men with thyroid problems had some degree of erectile dysfunction. If you are experiencing ED, in addition to other thyroid dysfunction symptoms, your doctor can run tests to see if a thyroid disorder may be the blame for your ED.
The pituitary gland, known as the “master gland,” is responsible for regulating many of our bodily functions. One common issue with the pituitary gland is a condition called Hyperprolactinemia, a condition where a person has higher-than-normal levels of the hormone prolactin in the blood. The main function of prolactin is to stimulate breast milk production after childbirth, but prolactin also affects the levels of sex hormones, estrogen, and testosterone, in both women and men. One common cause of hyperprolactinemia is a growth or tumor on the pituitary gland called a prolactinoma. In one study, it was found that men who have this condition of the pituitary gland often suffer from erectile dysfunction. In this case, treating the pituitary gland can help to resolve erectile dysfunction. It is important to note that while this condition may affect your erectile function, it is still a rare cause of erectile dysfunction.
These are just a few of the lesser-known conditions or illnesses that can cause erectile dysfunction without one necessarily being aware of the correlation. ED medications can be a quick solution that provide men with immediate relief, but it’s often best to consider health holistically and have a conversation with a doctor about your overall health to help treat the condition at-large. While ED is a common issue that men, both young and old, experience it’s always a good idea to look into it if you think it may be connected to other symptoms you are experiencing.