How Might E-Cigarettes Affect Erectile Function?
Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, have become an increasingly popular method of consuming nicotine in recent years, especially among young adults. Designed to look similar to actual cigarettes, e-cigarettes are electronic devices that hold a solution containing nicotine and other flavored ingredients. This solution is turned into vapor when people activate the device and inhale, which is why the practice is known as “vaping.”
Vaping has been promoted as a less harmful alternative to smoking cigarettes, but experts generally agree that it likely still poses health risks. Since e-cigarettes are relatively new to the global market, there is not enough evidence available to support or disprove their safety in comparison to cigarettes.
For example, smoking cigarettes is known to contribute to cardiovascular disease and erectile dysfunction (ED) because it causes plaque to build up in the arteries and damages the heart and blood vessels. The effect of e-cigarettes on erectile function remains less clear. However, early evidence suggests that vaping may cause endothelial damage, which is damage to the lining of the blood vessels. This damage can in turn lead to endothelial dysfunction, which is a possible mechanism for ED.
To examine the potential effects of vaping on erectile function, researchers conducted a comprehensive literature review of all studies related to e-cigarettes and erectile function, vascular damage, and/or endothelial damage. More than 40 publications were identified.
Collectively, these publications shed light on how vaping affects the body. Firstly, multiple studies confirmed that e-cigarette use causes inflammation and oxidative stress in the body’s endothelial tissues. Oxidative stress is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body that can increase a person’s risk of endothelial dysfunction and, consequently, ED.
Secondly, several studies showed that the flavor additives in e-cigarettes decrease nitric oxide bioavailability in the body, which is also a characteristic feature of endothelial dysfunction. Lastly, exposure to nicotine in e-cigarettes can increase sympathetic nervous system tone, constrict blood vessels, and reduce blood flow to the penis. All of these circumstances may contribute to ED.
In the end, the authors of this study concluded that there is not enough evidence available to determine whether there is an association between e-cigarette use and ED. Nevertheless, the evidence thus far suggestions that vaping may pose a threat to endothelial tissues, which can contribute to ED. Therefore, individuals are advised to proceed with caution when it comes to e-cigarettes.
- Pincus, J., Sandoval, V., Dick, B., Sanekommu, G., Rajasekaran, R., Ramasamy, R., & Raheem, O. (2022). E-Cigarette-Associated Endothelial Damage: A Potential Mechanism for Erectile Dysfunction. Sexual Medicine Reviews, 10(1), 168-173. DOI: doi.org/10.1016/j.sxmr.2021.01.003