Erectile Dysfunction and Infertility: What's the Link?

Erectile dysfunction affects more men as they age. But isn’t exclusively an older man’s condition, and around one quarter of men seeking treatment for ED are under 40. Between second marriages and a trend towards later-in-life childrearing, many men find themselves wondering if erectile dysfunction causes infertility.

Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

  • ED is caused by something that physically or psychologically prevents a man from achieving or maintaining an erection.
  • Physical causes often involve problems with blood flow to the penis, neurological conditions like MS, or nerve damage caused by pelvic injury.
  • Psychological conditions like stress and anxiety can contribute to ED, sometimes lingering after a physical cause has been resolved.

Causes of Infertility

Male infertility is caused by problems with sperm production or function, or the physical structures involved in sperm delivery. Some of the most common causes of male infertility are:

  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Infections
  • Enlarged testicular veins (varicocele)

Are Erectile Dysfunction and Infertility Related?

The physical symptoms of ED can interfere with sex and make conceiving a child challenging. But erectile dysfunction doesn’t necessarily indicate anything about sperm quality. This leaves several options for men with ED who wish to become parents.

  • Prescription drugs like Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra have helped many men overcome ED and conceive a child.
  • Addressing psychological or mental illness through therapy or medication can also help restore a fulfilling sex life that will make conceiving a child more likely.
  • Recent research points to a crisis of mental health problems among American men. Not only are they far more likely than women to abuse substances or commit suicide, but they’re far less likely to make use of mental health services.
  • Accessing support groups or leaning on their partner can help men acknowledge and seek out treatment for psychological issues that may be affecting their sexual health.

When the causes of ED prove difficult to control, there are other fertility options available. Assisted reproductive techniques include:

  • Intrauterine insemination – This less invasive treatment involves placing sperm directly inside the uterus to help facilitate fertilization.
  • In-vitro fertilization – Eggs and sperm are combined in a lab and allowed to fertilize, then embryos are implanted into the uterus.
  • Intracytoplasmic sperm injection – In this version of IVF a single sperm is directly injected into an egg, and then the fertilized embryo is implanted in the uterus.

Lifestyle Choices

Although many causes of erectile dysfunction and infertility are beyond a man’s control, there are lifestyle choices that can have an impact on both of these conditions. Drug and alcohol abuse have negative effects on male sexual health, and are potential causes of both erectile dysfunction and poor sperm quality. Men who are trying to conceive a child should cut out recreational drug use and limit alcohol intake to improve their likelihood of success. Smoking cigarettes is known to damage both sperm count and motility, adding to the list of reasons why quitting should be a top priority.

Although the two conditions can be related, erectile dysfunction doesn’t cause infertility. Men who are able to treat the underlying reason for their ED often go on to successfully conceive children, while men with more complex medical issues are increasingly able to rely on medical technology to help overcome these obstacles.

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DISCLAIMER: The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.