Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a risk factor for erectile dysfunction (ED), Turkish researchers report.
Their study, published last month in Multidisciplinary Respiratory Medicine, showed the men with COPD were more likely to have ED and depression.
COPD is a progressive respiratory disease that interferes with a person’s breathing. It is caused by long-term exposure to particles that can irritate and damage the lungs. One of the most common causes is smoking, but exposure to secondhand smoke and air pollution can also lead to COPD.
The researchers noted that many patients with COPD do not talk about sexual problems with their doctors. Their goal was to investigate the relationship between COPD and ED.
The study involved 70 men with COPD and 68 healthy volunteers ranging in age from 42 to 81. The men’s erectile function was assessed using the International Index of Erectile Function. Depression was evaluated with the Beck Depression Inventory. The researchers also tested the men’s lung function and took blood samples to measure testosterone and other hormones.
They found that 79% of the COPD patients had some degree of erectile dysfunction, compared to 56% of the healthy men.
All of the COPD patients had a history of smoking. Almost half were current smokers; the rest had quit.
In the control group, only 15% of the participants were current smokers. Thirty percent had smoked in the past and 56% were non-smokers.
Forty-nine percent of the men with COPD had depression. For the healthy men, this rate was 24%.
The men with COPD also had lower blood oxygen levels. This means that their blood carried less oxygen throughout their bodies, a condition called hypoxemia.
Past research has shown an association between hypoxemia and ED; the current study reinforced those findings.
The researchers explained that medical conditions that often accompany COPD, including depression and hypoxemia, can contribute to men’s sexual problems.
They added that some men with COPD have less sex because they worry about shortness of breath.
The researchers encouraged doctors to discuss sexual problems with their COPD patients.
“When establishing a treatment plan for improving the pulmonary function of COPD patients, sexual dysfunction and depression, which are usually neglected but diminish quality of life, should also be addressed,” they wrote.
Harvard Health Publications
“Oxygen Saturation Test”
Multidisciplinary Respiratory Medicine
Kahraman, Hasan, et al.
“Erectile dysfunction and sex hormone changes in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients”
(Full-text. October 9, 2013)
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
“What causes COPD?”
(July 31, 2013)
“What is COPD?”
(July 31, 2013)