Effect of Healthy Lifestyle Choices on Erectile Dysfunction: Can Smoking Cigarettes Cause Impotence?

It’s well known that smoking results in a multitude of destructive effects on the human body. What is not as well-known is smoking’s effects on erectile dysfunction. It’s important that you discuss your smoking habits with your doctor as part of a comprehensive examination of ED. What follows is a summation of smoking’s effects on the cardiovascular system, as well as fertility and erections in general. 

Smoking and the Cardiovascular System 

The impact of smoking on health cannot be underestimated. Cardiovascular disease is the second-largest killer in Australia after cancer. Smoking is but one of the multiple preventable causes of CVD. Smoking, along with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a sedentary lifestyle, overweight size or obesity, poor nutrition, diabetes, and drinking alcohol to dangerous levels contribute to CVD. Smoking contributes to higher rates of CVD. Smokers have three times the risk of CVD than a person who never smoked. Overall, 15% of CVD deaths can be attributed to smoking. This level rises for persons from the age of 45 to 54, with approximately 38% mortality for men. Smokers over 60 experience a decreased lifespan of five years. Although smokers who smoke more than 25 or more cigarettes a day increase their risk for CVD fivefold, even a few cigarettes a day doubles the risk. 

Smoking and Fertility 

Does smoking affect fertility? Smoking negatively affects male fertility in many ways. Smoking makes it difficult for men and women to conceive a child together. A strong correlation exists between smoking and infertility, with a direct relationship between the amount smoked and fertility difficulties. Even second-hand smoke is almost as damaging as direct smoking, as little difference exists between directly inhaled smoke and secondary smoke. The chemicals in cigarettes damage sperm. This damage impacts the health of a future child. In particular, smoking affects male hormone production. Sperm DNA is adversely affected by smoking. 

In total, smokers experience infertility at greater rates than non-smokers. Furthermore, men who smoke experience erectile dysfunction, perhaps as a direct consequence of CVD. Since sperm matures in three months, quitting three months before trying for conception increases the chance for a healthy baby. Also, heavy smoking, or more than 20 cigarettes a day, increases the chances of childhood leukemia. All indications point to smoking as a significant complication to fertility. 

Smoking and Erectile Dysfunction 

There is a significant correlation between erectile dysfunction and smoking. Male smokers experience ED at twice the rate of non-smokers. ED is in itself a marker of CVD. As seen, smoking significantly increases the risk of CVD. The result is a vicious cycle where sustained smoking increases CVD, which in turn heightens the signs and symptoms of ED. Smoking and ED are intrinsically related, with men under 40 particularly at risk. In all cases, the amount smoked directly affects the severity of ED. 

A brief review of the erectile process underscores the relationship between CVD and ED. The penile corpora cavernosa are spongy vascular regions. Erection happens when the cavernous smooth muscles relax and penile arterioles dilate with blood becoming trapped in the erectile tissue. After arterial blood flows into the corpora, a venous seal maintains an erection. Smoking damages blood vessels including the corpora cavernosa. Damage to the penile blood vessels due to smoking damage or CVD in general delays or prevents an erection. 

Causes of ED not Directly Related to Smoking 

Certain causes of ED are not due to smoking. Some causes are psychological in basis, others due to diseases other than CVD. Psychological factors could include anxiety, stress, depression, and problems within a relationship. Removal of the prostate, as well as Peryonie’s disease or the fibrous scarring of penile tissue, also plays a role in ED. In fewer cases, injury to the brain or spinal cord can create nervous system damage which impedes erection. In every case, smoking can exacerbate symptoms not directly caused by smoking. 

It’s undeniable that smoking adversely affects fertility as well as ED. For this reason, smoking cessation is undeniably important if you want If you smoke and wish to have a child or experience a sustained erection. If you have questions about erectile dysfunction, contact Katelaris Urology for an appointment. Dr. Katelaris will guide you through the process of smoking cessation as well as a plan to improve and correct erectile dysfunction.