Iron deficiency anemia does not cause erectile dysfunction, but there’s a link between the symptoms of the two.

Iron deficiency anemia happens when you don’t have enough iron in your blood to make the hemoglobin that transports oxygen throughout your body.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is one of the possible symptoms of iron deficiency anemia. ED happens when you can’t get or keep an erection long enough to have penetrative sex or masturbate to orgasm.

Read on to learn more about iron deficiency anemia and ED, other symptoms of low iron and ED to watch for, and when to get medical help for low iron or ED.

No. There’s no research supporting the idea that iron deficiency anemia — or any other kind of anemia — is directly linked to ED.

Anemia means your blood cells do not contain as much hemoglobin as your body needs to supply tissues throughout the body with oxygen.

Blood oxygen is part of many critical processes in the body, such as replacing old cells with new ones and helping your immune system protect your body from infections.

Blood plays an important role in getting an erection, too. When you’re aroused, the penis quickly fills with blood to become erect. Blood that lacks oxygen or other related components, such as nitric oxide, may not be able to produce a strong or lasting erection, resulting in ED.

There’s no direct link between iron deficiency anemia and ED. But some of the symptoms of iron deficiency anemia can contribute to ED.

Tiredness and fatigue

Without iron, blood loses its ability to heal damaged and inflamed tissue and replace old cells with new ones. This leads to fatigue, which can reduce your sex drive and make it harder for your penis to get erect.

A 2015 study suggests there’s also a connection between chronic fatigue, ED, and other related symptoms, like:

Low red blood cell count

Anemia usually means you have a low red blood cell count.

Iron deficiency anemia also contributes to a high red cell distribution width (RDW). RDW measures how wide your red blood cells are and how much variation in width there is among them.

RDW tends to be higher in people with ED than in people who don’t have ED.

Low sex drive

Fatigue caused by iron deficiency anemia can make you feel less interested in sex and lower your sex drive.

A lower sex drive usually means it’s more difficult to get aroused and get an erection you can keep.

Iron levels in your blood are known to have a direct link to ED in general.

But having too much iron in your blood for too long without treatment can lead to sexual dysfunction and infertility.

Here are some shared symptoms of low iron and ED:

Here are additional symptoms of iron deficiency anemia:

Get medical help if you notice any of the following symptoms or complications of iron deficiency anemia:

  • fast heart rate that won’t slow down
  • infections that don’t heal
  • feeling depressed
  • bleeding that doesn’t stop
  • feeling like you’re going to or actually losing consciousness
  • dangerously low blood pressure

A doctor may perform or order several tests to measure your iron levels:

Some treatments for ED related to anemia can include:

  • iron supplements to raise iron levels in the blood
  • dietary changes to increase iron in your diet
  • quitting smoking or limiting alcohol use, which can both affect blood flow
  • PDE5 inhibitors to help you get and keep an erection
  • devices like penis pumps to help you get erections
  • red blood cell transfusion in severe cases of anemia

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about anemia and erectile dysfunction.

What are the side effects of anemia in males?

The side effects of anemia in males aren’t much different from what anyone will experience. The only difference is that males don’t get symptoms related to menstruation.

Some of the most common side effects include:

  • low blood pressure
  • chest pain
  • feeling lightheaded
  • passing out
  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath

Does iron help with erectile dysfunction?

Taking iron for anemia may help with some ED symptoms. But too much iron can also cause ED.

Normal iron levels range from 50–175 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL).

Does iron increase testosterone?

There’s no evidence that increasing your iron levels increases your testosterone.

High iron levels can actually decrease testosterone.

What are the main causes of ED?

The main causes of ED include:

  • substance use, including smoking tobacco, a high alcohol intake, and taking recreational drugs
  • having obesity
  • having conditions that affect your heart or blood, such as high blood pressure or atherosclerosis
  • not getting regular physical activity
  • living with chronic conditions like diabetes or kidney disease
  • having mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression

Iron deficiency anemia does not cause ED. However, some of its symptoms and complications can result in ED.

Speak with a doctor if you have symptoms of low iron or anemia along with ED.