According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than fifteen million Americans are suffering from alcohol use disorder. The number of American men with alcohol use disorder is close to ten million. And that’s quite unfortunate, considering that alcoholism is highly associated with erectile dysfunction and other sexual dysfunctions.
Despite this, many men still continue to believe that alcohol can improve their sexual performance. In part, this is because alcohol can help relieve anxiety and lessen inhibitions, which might be helpful when one is trying to initiate sexual activities. However, the sad truth is that alcohol dependence can lead to various sexual dysfunctions.
Sexual Disorders Linked With Alcohol Use
Through numerous scientific studies, the adverse effects of alcohol dependence have been well documented. Low libido is one of the most common negative sexual effects of alcoholism. Premature ejaculation is another common complaint associated with alcohol dependence.
Erectile dysfunction is another sexual problem that is frequently associated with alcoholism. The results of studies on erectile dysfunction and alcoholism only differ in the amount of alcohol consumed, the frequency of alcohol intake, and the number of years of alcohol drinking. But all these studies are in agreement that alcohol can cause impotence.
When you suffer from these sexual dysfunctions, it can lead to various other problems such as sexual dissatisfaction and relationship problems. On the other hand, when your sexual functioning is fine, it can give you a sense of emotional, psychological, and social well-being.
How Alcohol Induces Sexual Dysfunction
One of the ways alcohol dependence negatively influences your sexual function is by inhibiting gonadotropin-releasing hormone activities. This hormone is produced in the hypothalamic region of the brain and one of its function is to stimulate your pituitary gland to produce both follicle stimulation hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).
These two hormones are very important for your reproductive health. Both FSH and LH help regulate the production of sex steroids and sperm production. Luteinizing hormone is necessary for your production of testosterone. FSH is also important for the proper and normal maturation of your sperm cells.
In short, when you suffer from alcohol use disorder, your FSH and LH levels decrease. This then leads to low testosterone and sperm production, negatively impacting both your sexual functioning and your fertility.
Aside from the negative hormonal reactions associated with alcohol intake, plasma testosterone levels are also reduced by alcohol through other mechanisms. For instance, beta-endorphin is a testicular opioid that suppresses the production of testosterone in the testicles.
Chronic and acute alcohol intake has been shown to result in increased beta-endorphin levels. In addition, opioids also promote apoptosis or cell death in the testicles. When your Leydig and seminiferous cells in your testicles start dying, it leads to decreased sperm production as well as low testosterone levels.
When your testosterone levels drop, it can induce a loss of libido since testosterone fuels your sexual desire. By itself, low testosterone levels do not directly cause you to lose your erectile function.
However, when other factors are present, such as alcohol-induced tissue damage and alcohol-induced hormonal imbalance, low testosterone levels will be a contributing factor to the development of erectile dysfunction.
Alcohol consumption also increases oxidative stress in the body. When your cells suffer from oxidative damage, it can lead to various diseases. For example, due to the increased oxidative damage caused by alcohol intake, you may end up developing liver tissue damage.
Your heart and central nervous system may also be affected by alcohol-induced tissue damage. Chronic alcohol drinkers often develop various heart diseases and circulatory system problems such as high blood pressure.
Since your ability to achieve erections is heavily influenced by how well your circulatory system functions and the health of your penile blood vessels, when you have circulatory problems, it will also lead to erectile problems.
Your testes are no exemption to the cellular damage caused by alcoholism. The membranes in your testicles are actually full of lipids, which are prone to oxidative damage. This is one of the reasons why acute and chronic alcoholism is linked with testicular damage.
In fact, alcohol is considered as toxic to your testicular cells. Excessively drinking alcohol over a long period of time can even lead to atrophy and necrosis of your testicular cells. That means the cells in your testicles literally die and no longer function properly. This is also one of the reasons why alcohol intake is linked with testicular shrinking.
Alcohol and Impotence
Excessive alcohol intake is considered one of the top lifestyle causes of erectile dysfunction, especially when coupled with heavy smoking. Acute alcoholism often results in damage to various internal organs, such as the liver, kidneys, heart, and the testicles.
In turn, when these organs are no longer functioning properly, your erectile function will also be affected. For instance, men with alcoholic liver cirrhosis often develop erectile dysfunction. There’s also a high prevalence of erectile dysfunction in men suffering from an end-stage liver disease.
Men with chronic kidney diseases also have high risks of developing erectile dysfunction. This is because when your kidneys are not functioning properly or are damaged, it can lead to abnormalities in your gonadal-pituitary system resulting in hormonal imbalance.
Chronic kidney diseases are also associated with dysfunction of the endothelial cells which line the blood vessels. When your blood vessels are unhealthy, they can become hardened and inflexible. This means that your blood vessels can no longer contract or dilate properly, negatively affecting your blood flow.
Since your penis requires sufficient blood flow in order to become tumescent, when not enough blood is coming in, either you won’t get an erection at all or your erection will be weak.
In addition, chronic renal failure is also linked to decreased sperm production. Your testes are also affected when you have a chronic kidney disease. This can then lead to reduced total and free testosterone levels.
In addition, men with chronic renal failure often have elevated prolactin levels. When you have hyperprolactinemia, you will most likely experience a decrease in your libido and your serum testosterone levels will drop. This can also be a cause of erectile dysfunction.