Do STI Have an Impact on Male Sexual Function?

Erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence, is a term that is used to describe the inability of a man to achieve and/or maintain an erection. ED is a rather common medical condition, and the probability of suffering from it increases as a man grows older. Impotence may be caused by two types of factors: psychological and physiological.

Sexually transmitted infections are another common problem for men, especially those who lead an active sexual life. They can be contracted through unprotected sex, and there is a recurring stereotype that younger generations are more susceptible to STI. However, as shown by recent studies, it is not necessarily true, and the rate of STI among older men is not as low as could be expected.

STI and Impotence: The Psychological Factor

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These two medical conditions do not seem to be directly related to each other. However, there is at least one way in which sexually transmitted diseases can contribute to the development of impotence. Since erectile dysfunction can be caused by psychological factors, it is highly important that a man thinks about the “right” things during intercourse and prior to it. If all a man can think about is the risk of contracting STI and the impact that the infection could have on his further life, it is highly unlikely that he is going to be able to develop an erection.

An erection is normally achieved by increasing blood flow to the penis. It fills up the sponge-like tubes situated on either side of the organ and allow it to become rigid. For the whole process to begin, the brain has to “understand” that the man is sexually aroused by perceiving a signal from the nerve endings around his genitals. After that, the brain can direct blood-flow to the penis, enabling an erection. If the brain is concentrated on something else, this connection might get weaker or disappear at all, so at least one of the organs will no longer be able to react to the signals of the other.

Fear of contracting sexually transmitted infections is quite natural, as they can have rather grave consequences, ranging from partial hearing loss to infertility in both men and women. There are some ways of protecting oneself from STI, but they are not guaranteed to work in 100% of cases. Even wearing a condom during sexual activity does not guarantee zero risk of being infected, as it might break, slip, or fail to cover the infected bit of skin. However, this fear should be reasonable and contribute to adequate protection, instead of leading to fear mongering and making sexual life complicated and virtually non-existent in the long run.

Men who have already been diagnosed with STI are often even more afraid of engaging with an infected sexual partner again, because they have already experienced STI and their consequences. What’s more, their self-esteem might drop to rather low levels, as they sometimes expect to sexually perform worse than they could before being infected.

A vivid example of psychological impotence  caused by sexually transmitted diseases are patients with prostatitis. This is an inflammation of the prostate gland in men, which is often caused by an infection. According to statistical data, almost one half of patients diagnosed with prostatitis reported experiencing erectile dysfunction. Another 25% of men claimed that they did not feel strong sexual desire anymore. These phenomena can be linked directly to prostatitis and its impact on a male’s self-confidence, as well as its perception by his sexual partner.

STI and Impotence: The Physiological Factor

The impact of sexually transmitted diseases on physiological impotence has not been studied well enough yet. Statistical data suggests that there might be some connection between certain STI and erectile dysfunction, but this could be due to the psychological reasons described above.

Studies of HIV patients have been able to prove that there is a physiological connection between infection and erectile dysfunction. Medical practitioners observed a rather high percentage of HIV-positive males who complained of low libido and erectile dysfunction, and they were able to find a connection between HIV treatment and ED. It turned out that most patients who received a certain type of HIV treatment had high estradiol levels, which could cause lack of sexual desire, and, as a result, erectile dysfunction. Similarly, medications that are used to treat other STI could trigger erectile dysfunction as a side effect. However, there is little or no research on the problem and its resolution.

Sometimes, it can be rather hard to distinguish whether impotence is caused by a psychological reaction to STI or actual physiological impact of the infection. In the case of infection with the herpes simplex virus, patients tend to demonstrate low sexual desire and erectile dysfunction, but it isn’t clear whether it is caused by the virus itself, a reaction to the treatment, or psychological perception. HSV is incurable, which can often have a negative impact on a man’s relationship with his sexual partner, and cause mutual desire to engage in sexual intercourse to sink. What’s more, certain herpes virus types are known to cause anxiety as a long-term complication, which could trigger psychological erectile dysfunction. Suppressive treatment that helps keep the virus in a passive state without causing outbreaks mostly gives positive results, allowing couples to resume a normal sexual relationship. This generally leads to gradual reduction of ED symptoms until they disappear.

Another example of such controversy is the human papilloma virus. There is quite a large number of men who start suffering from erectile dysfunction after being diagnosed with HPV. This is a statistically proven fact, but it is still unknown whether it is due to psychological or physiological factors.

All in all, it is possible to claim that sexually transmitted diseases truly do have an impact on sexual function, even if it is not direct or substantial. It depends on many factors and may occur in only some men. Nevertheless, this remains a valid topic for further research.

Research by Canadian Health&Care Mall Lab -

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