Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is when a man has difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection. An estimated 30 million men experience ED at some point. A wide range of factors can influence ED.
In this article, we look at the relationship between hydration and both ED and sex drive, how you can tell if you are dehydrated, and other causes of erectile dysfunction.
Is dehydration linked to ED?
It is possible for a person’s hydration levels to influence temporary ED. A lack of sufficient body water can affect a person physiologically and mentally.
Several elements are needed for a man to achieve and maintain an erection. A breakdown in one or more of these steps means he may not be able to achieve an erection that is firm enough for sex. The process includes:
- sexual arousal, or the messages sent to the brain that stimulate blood flow to the penis
- increased blood flow into two chambers in the penis called the corpus cavernosum that leads to the penis swelling and becoming erect
- when a man achieves ejaculation, the blood leaves the chambers, and the erection goes away
When a man is dehydrated, he does not have as much blood volume in his body as when he is properly hydrated. Therefore, his blood vessels become constricted, as there is not enough blood to keep them tense. This impairs blood flow to all parts of the body, including the penis.
Little research has looked at whether dehydration directly causes erectile dysfunction, so further studies are needed.
When a person is dehydrated, their body releases greater amounts of the enzyme angiotensin I, which leads to the blood vessels constricting.
The presence of angiotensin II, which the body makes from angiotensin I, has been associated with sexual dysfunction in animal studies, although more research is needed into how this affects humans.
In addition to the physical effects of dehydration that impact penile erection, mood is also associated with dehydration.
A small scale 2011 study found that mild dehydration was associated with impaired memory, tension, and anxiety in men.
A person’s mental state can have a profound effect on their sex drive and ED. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, stress, anxiety, depression, and nervousness can all contribute to ED. Therefore, it is possible that the mood changes associated with dehydration could lead to ED.
A man can experience ED for a number of reasons. Men of all ages can experience the condition. While people associate getting older with ED, this does not have to be the case.
Certain conditions that affect blood flow can cause ED, including:
- high blood pressure
- history of alcohol and tobacco use
- history of brain or spinal cord injuries
- history of radiation to the testicles
- multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- bladder or prostate surgery
Taking certain medications is also associated with ED. These include antidepressants, blood pressure-lowering medicines, and medications for pain.
In addition, mental health disorders, anxiety, or a dysfunctional relationship with a partner can all contribute to ED in men.
ED is a common and often treatable condition affecting men. Although doctors have not conducted specific research studies related to how dehydration specifically affects ED, there are other studies and literature that can establish a link.
However, dehydration is usually a temporary condition and not typically the sole contributor to long-term ED. If a man is consistently having trouble getting or maintaining an erection, he should talk to his doctor for a diagnosis.
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