Sex may permeate our popular culture, but conversations about it are still associated with stigma and shame in Indian households. As a result, most individuals dealing with sexual health issues or trying to find information about sex often resort to unverified online sources or follow the unscientific advice of their friends.
The initial hypothesis that Covid-19 mainly impacts the respiratory system has been proved wrong by a body of research that points at various other organ damage and physiological conditions that result in the aftermath of a COVID-19 infection. Although there is no conclusive evidence, it is being observed that male fertility is also being affected due to COVID-19. Therefore, many doctors have urged their patients, who had contracted Covid, to take fertility tests as soon as possible.
It is being suspected that COVID-19 infection might damage the function of testicles in men and impact the production of sperms or the formation of male sex hormones. Furthermore, COVID-19 induced depression and stress due to prolonged periods of isolation, medication, and suffering can also cause male infertility or reduce sperm count and affect men’s sexual prowess.
There might also be a temporary worsening of semen parameters. Whether these issues are permanent or if they resolve themselves is yet to be known conclusively. Covid-19 is likely to threaten male fertility in four ways:
The high expression of ACE2 receptors — the virus’s favourite entry-point — in the testis is a concern. The presence of the ACE2 receptor on germ cells, Leydig cells, and Sertoli cells in the male genital system makes it a potential target of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Covid-19 causes a reduction of Leydig cells, while Sertoli cells can become inflamed and detached. These cells are critical for reproductive health and sperm production.
There’s also the worry that Covid-19’s effects and the resulting inflammation could cause temporary or permanent damage to reproductive tissues. Hyperinflammation around the heart and surrounding muscles may also block or narrow blood supply to the penis, causing erectile dysfunction. Research published in July suggests Covid-19 can exacerbate cardiovascular conditions, increasing the risk of erectile dysfunction and the chance of developing sexual and reproductive health issues.
Total inflammation of the testicles, a condition called orchitis, doesn’t appear to be common. However, the report explains that the immune system’s overreaction called cytokine storms, along with high fevers, may lead to orchitis. It can cause permanent reproductive function damage.
Covid-19’s resulting system-wide inflammation can also send the endocrine system out of whack. In turn, men’s testosterone and other sex hormone levels can be disrupted, compromising fertility.
Pandemic-related stress, anxiety, and depression can also cause a change in mood. Studies suggest this can also affect sexual health. Studies indicate that between 25 and 60 per cent of infertile individuals have significantly higher anxiety and depression than fertile men. Scientists don’t know for sure which came first — the stress or infertility.