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Does Dehydration compromise blood flow to the erectile tissues of the penis, leading to erectile dysfunction (ED)?
The causes of ED in an individual can be broadly classified into vascular, endocrine, psychogenic, neurogenic, or metabolic (1, 2). Neurogenic causes include Parkinsonism, Multiple Sclerosis, and Cerebrovascular accidents. Encephalitis, Epilepsy, and Dementia (4).
Vascular Causes include arterial insufficiency, venous leakage, pelvic fracture leading to urethral injury, a Polyarteritis (5). metabolic causes include diabetes mellitus, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, obesity, metabolic syndrome, aging, and dehydration (6).
Psychogenic causes that lead to ED include performance anxiety, relationship issues, depression, and low self-esteem (7). Endocrine conditions like testosterone deficiency, treatment for prostate cancer, hypopituitarism, pituitary tumor, and hyperthyroidism also cause similar symptoms (8).
What Is the Link Between Dehydration and ED?
As already discussed, different systems in the body work in harmony to initiate and maintain an erection. A man achieves and maintains erection through the following cascade:
- When you get sexually aroused, your brain sends signals through the spinal cord.
- This triggers the release of chemicals like Nitric Oxide, leading to the relaxation of smooth muscles in each corpus cavernosum.
- This enhances blood flow through the corpora cavernosa, just like inflating a balloon, causing penile swelling, rigidity, and erection.
- As soon as you ejaculate, the blood flow through the corpora cavernosa decreases, and the penis becomes flaccid.
Similarly, Adequate hydration is also essential for sexual health. Dehydration causes several complications and side effects, one of which is temporary ED. Proper hydration maintains plasma volume, allowing adequate blood flow through penile arteries and veins.
Consequently, dehydration means vascular constriction, lack of proper blood flow, delivery of oxygen, and other essential nutrients required for a proper erection.
Dehydration and low blood volume also cause the release of angiotensin, which causes vascular constriction. The angiotensin-converting-enzyme converts Angiotensin 1 to Angiotensin 2, which is a very potent vasoconstrictor.
This renin-angiotensin system also has a role in the function of erectile tissues (9). High levels of Angiotensin 2 in the Corpus Cavernosum of penile tissue cause vasoconstriction leading to ED.
Therefore, Pharmacological agents that block this pathway prove beneficial for erection (9). Hence, dehydration forms part of the vasculogenic etiology of ED.
How Do You Know That You Are Dehydrated?
Dehydration means that there is a deficit in the body’s total water content. It can be due to decreased fluid intake or increased losses (10). It can be classified into mild, moderate, and severe.
The first and the most obvious sign of dehydration is the feeling of thirst. However, don’t forget that feeling thirsty means being “already” dehydrated. To monitor the hydration status of your body, you should be attentive to the signs of dehydration.
- Dry mouth, dry tongue, thirst, headache, lethargy, fatigue, dry skin, muscle weakness, lightheadedness, and lack of focus.
- Sunken eyes, lack of tears, sunken fontanels, hypotension, tachycardia, and unconsciousness.
What Are the Causes of Dehydration?
Causes of dehydration can be broadly classified into two categories; decreased intake and increased losses. Losses can be in the form of the following (10):
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- Insensible water losses like sweat and stool.
- Heat exposure
- Too much exercise
What’s the Solution?
ED is a terrible and extremely stressful condition any man experiences. Chronic ED comes with even more devastating effects on one’s relationships, health, efficiency, and performance. However, occasional ED associated with easily treatable causes like dehydration has an excellent prognosis.
The first step is prevention! It is recommended for men drink 3,000 ml of water daily to maintain adequate urine output and prevent dehydration (11).
However, if the ED continues to persist despite adequate hydration, or if it comes back occasionally, you should seek an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. It is better to run some tests and find the root cause of the problem.
Hydration and sexual health are interlinked. To enjoy your sex life fully, it is necessary to monitor all the aspects of your health, whether hydration, nutrition, or psychogenic. If you feel dehydrated, start drinking six to eight glasses of water daily.
However, this water intake should be regardless of your thirst. Dehydration and ED might be connected, but this connection is temporary and can be easily dealt with by proper water intake and taking care of extra losses.