Does Smoking Affect Erectile Dysfunction?
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An early career psychiatrist with extensive experience in general adult psychiatry, relationship issues, psychosexual problems & special interest in sexual medicine, disorders with addictive behaviours and Obsessive Compulsive disorders. He is an astute physician with excellent academic record and research experience. He is also a member of World Health Organisation and World Psychiatric Association. His vision and goal for Allo is an inclusive, accessible digital health clinic for psychosexual difficulties.
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Updated on 03 November, 2023
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Smoking is shown as a very attractive trait in movies and shows. In reality, smoking can have adverse effects on your health, including your sexual health. From causing low mood and decreased libido to reducing the ability to maintain an erection, smoking is one of the leading causes of sexual dysfunction.
While the ill effects of smoking on overall health are common knowledge, how exactly does smoking affect sexual health?
How Does Tobacco Affect Your Sexual Health?
The major ill effect of smoking is on your blood circulation due to the presence of chemicals such as nicotine. Nicotine constricts blood vessels which restricts blood flow and affects erectile function. Not surprisingly, it is also the same chemical that makes smoking addictive. Apart from nicotine, there are 250 more harmful chemicals found in tobacco, some of which are also known to cause cancer.
All the body parts, such as the heart, kidneys, and also your genitals, are affected by tobacco and nicotine. This restricted blood flow causes erectile dysfunction, as proper vascular function is essential to get and maintain an erection.
Apart from this, smoking also increases your chances of getting certain diseases that cause ED. For example, smoking is known to cause hypertension and type 2 diabetes, both of which are known causes of erectile dysfunction.
What Is Erectile Dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction refers to having difficulty in achieving or maintaining an erection firm/hard enough for sexual intercourse all or most of the time.
The symptoms of erectile dysfunction (ED) can include:
Difficulty getting an erection
Difficulty maintaining an erection
Reduced sexual desireAdvertisements
Troubles with sexual performance
Anxiety or depression related to ED
Reduced or absent spontaneous erections
Low self-esteem or insecurity related to sexual performance
There are many possible causes for erectile dysfunction (ED), which can be physical, psychological, or a combination of both. Some common causes include cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, neurological conditions (like Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord injuries that affect the nerves that control erections), effects of certain medications, psychological factors, poor lifestyle choices or a sedentary lifestyle etc.
Can Smoking Cause Erectile Dysfunction?
Smoking directly causes erectile dysfunction in several ways. But it also indirectly interferes with your ability to maintain an erection, affecting your sexual health.
Smoking decreases your sex drive or libido, which makes it difficult to get an erection. A recent study including young smokers found that smoking significantly increased the chances of low libido irrespective of age.
Smoking also increases anxiety and tension and is detrimental to your mental health. Many smokers are unable to quit as they have a perceived sense of wellness during smoking. But in reality, tobacco causes harm to your psychological health which would in turn affect your sexual drive increasing your chances of ED.
Continued use of tobacco also interferes with sex hormones such as estrogen and androgens, which reduces sexual enjoyment. This causes people to lose interest in sex and impacts their ability to get an erection.
Does Quitting Smoking Help Cure Erectile Dysfunction?
Smoking has severe effects on both your sexual and overall health. However, in most cases, quitting smoking and other tobacco-related products has helped improve ED considerably. Many people who quit smoking expect immediate results and are disappointed when their ED doesn’t seem to resolve. But even after quitting, the effects of tobacco take around 2-12 weeks to reduce.
After this time, many former smokers have found significant improvement in their ability to get and maintain erections. However, merely quitting smoking may not be enough.
If your ED was severe, or you have developed other health conditions due to smoking, then you might need additional medical assistance. Your age and the severity of smoking also matter when treating ED.
After quitting tobacco, you may also experience withdrawal symptoms which often include low mood. You may notice irritability, anxiety, and reduced concentration. These symptoms might make it more difficult to get an erection.
But this doesn’t mean your ED is worsening. With proper medical and psychological assistance, you can quit smoking and overcome symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, post which you may notice an improvement in your ED.
Apart from this, you can also include healthy dietary changes and regular exercise. Exercise is known to help erectile dysfunction, and also boost your mood, and keeps withdrawal symptoms at bay.
Smoking has adverse effects on your entire health, and ED is one of them. However, by staying away from tobacco and making healthy changes to your lifestyle, you can significantly improve erectile dysfunction.