Smoking and Erectile Dysfunction
Learn how smoking is linked to erectile dysfunction
If you have read some of my other posts, for example on diet and exercise you might be expecting this: Erectile Dysfunction is 85% more common in smokers than non-smokers!1
It continues to amaze me what staggering number of people smoke.
Although the percentage of the population engaging in smoking has been steadily declining over the last few decades, a 2007 survey showed that around 22% of the population of England smoked at this time2. Although this result boasted a reduction of four percent from the previous survey five years earlier, this still equates to around 13.7 million people in England alone3.
It should also be noted that the most affluent individuals had a significantly lower incidence of smoking compared to the more deprived people investigated in the study, and that almost five times more men smoke than do women. The overall decline of smoking among the population of many countries is due largely to a change in advertising; since the link between cigarette smoking and various cancers has now been thoroughly researched and proven beyond any reasonable doubt, more and more people are becoming aware of the threats proposed by smoking, and a larger number of people than ever are choosing to avoid smoking.
Hundreds of chemicals within cigarette smoke itself have been linked with cancer formation in humans. The most important of these chemicals are the policyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a class of molecules which mediate their effects by forming complexes with DNA. Certain genes encoded by the DNA molecule, known as ‘tumour suppressor’ genes, produce proteins which act to repair any damage to the DNA, and allow the cell to self-destruct in response to irreparable damage.
If the PAH complexes form upon one of these genes it can lead to reduced production of these protective proteins, thus leading to runaway DNA damage and the beginnings of a cancerous cell4. In addition to the increased risk of cancer associated with smoking the habit is also known to cause atheroma (a swelling and hardening of blood vessels due to increased accumulation of fatty debris on the walls of the arteries), which leads to an increased risk of angina, heart attacks and strokes. Smokers’ hearts also have to work much harder than those of non-smokers. This is due in part to the effect of the carbon monoxide contained within cigarette smoke, which competes for the oxygen binding site on the iron atom of a haemoglobin molecule, forming a extremely strong bond with this atom, thus out-competing oxygen. This happens by a factor of about 180:1!
As well as this, the increased adrenaline release and subsequent increase in heart rate and blood pressure associated with consumption of the nicotine also results in inhibited vasodilation of arteries.
The same mechanisms responsible for heart disease as a result of smoking are also responsible for erectile dysfunction in males. Nicotine interrupts the processes required for release of the vasodilator nitric oxide, the main mediator of the increased penile blood flow leading to an erection, and atheroma of the arteries supplying the penis can also lead to a dramatic loss of function. While nicotine-induced erectile dysfunction can be seen to be reversed almost immediately after kicking the habit, a build up of debris in the penile arteries brought about by heavy cigarette use may take slightly longer to clear, though5.
The drastically increased risk of cancer and heart disease among smokers often eclipses the other inconveniences associated with smoking, and erectile dysfunction is often swept aside and seldom discussed. If you’ve been experiencing erectile dysfunction, quitting smoking can be an instant cure for you!!
- “Haake P. Exton M.S. Haverkamp J. Krämer M. Leygraf N. Hartmann U. Schedlowski M. Krueger T.H.C, Absence of orgasm-induced prolactin secretion in a healthy multi-orgasmic male subject, (2002), International Journal of Impotence Research, Issue 14, Volume 2, Pages 133–135. DOI:10.1038/sj/ijir/3900823″ ↩
- “1 – Health Survey for England 2007: Latest Trends, 2008, The Information Centre for Health and Social Care” ↩
- “2 – C. R. Simpson, J. Hippisley-Cox, A. Sheikh, Trends in the epidemiology of smoking recorded in UK general practice, 2010, Brit J Gen Pract, Volume 60, Issue 572, Pages e121–e127” ↩
- B. Muñoz and A. Albores, DNA Damage Caused by Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons: Mechanisms and Markers, Departamento de Toxicología, Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados del I.P.N. México” ↩
- http://www.shsc.nhs.uk/_documentbank/pd6039_SmokingErectileDysfunction1.pdf” ↩