Can Dehydration Cause Erectile Dysfunction (ED)?

Medically reviewed by Daniel Murrell, MD on August 2, 2017Written by Kimberly Holland

Overview

As men get older, erectile dysfunction (ED) becomes more common. ED occurs when a man is unable to get and keep an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse.

ED can be a chronic problem, or it can occur randomly and occasionally. Many causes can contribute to both chronic and temporary ED. Find out more about ED.

One possible explanation for temporary ED is dehydration. In order for a man to have an erection that’s firm enough for sex, many of the body’s systems have to work together in harmony. If one area is off, such as fluid levels that are too low because of dehydration, ED can occur.

Understanding what can lead to dehydration, how dehydration can cause ED, and how it’s treated can help prevent both dehydration and ED caused by lack of fluids.

Hydration and sexual health

In order for a man to get an erection and eventually reach orgasm, a lot of the body’s systems have to work together properly. Everything from the nerves around the penis to the blood pumping through the body is necessary for an erection. If one area of the body isn’t working properly, erectile dysfunction may occur.

Hydration is an important component for overall health, including sexual health. Without proper hydration, your body experiences side effects and complications. Several of these can lead to ED.

First, the more hydrated your body is, the higher your volume of blood cells and plasma, and the more efficiently blood can flow through your veins and arteries. A low volume of red blood cells and plasma can lead to ED because the penis cannot get enough oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to maintain an erection.

Second, when fluid levels in your body fall, your body starts creating a hormone called angiotensin. This hormone causes blood vessels to constrict or tighten. This can lead to an increase in blood pressure, and it prevents adequate blood flow through the body. This includes blood flow to the penis.

In addition, the increased blood pressure can reduce sexual satisfaction. As high blood pressure continues, it can damage the blood vessels and arteries. It will make them harder and narrower, which reduces blood flow permanently. Reduced blood flow can also reduce sensation in the penis and ultimately lower sexual desire. Read more about the connection between high blood pressure and ED.

Signs of dehydration

Thirst is a poor indicator of hydration status. If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. The best way to monitor your hydration status is to pay attention to other signs of dehydration. These include:

  • reduced urination, both amount and frequency
  • dark-colored urine
  • dry mouth and tongue
  • fatigue
  • lack of stamina
  • dizziness
  • confusion or a disoriented feeling

Dehydration can become serious if it’s not treated quickly. In addition to the effects on your sex life, dehydration can cause several complications. These include:

Causes of ED

Dehydration is an easily-treated cause of ED. Several other causes can also lead to erection problems. These include:

Seeking help

ED isn’t always an indication of a more serious problem. Some men, after one episode of ED, worry that it will occur again. The anxiety caused by ED can increase the likelihood it will occur again. Find out more about the link between performance anxiety and ED.

If you continue to experience ED or notice other unusual symptoms, make an appointment to see your doctor. While your doctor may just assure you that temporary ED is nothing to be concerned about, they may also want to run additional tests to check for potential problems.

For some men, temporary ED is a symptom of an underlying condition like heart disease or high blood pressure. Diagnosing the condition and treating it can help stop the ED and prevent future problems.

Outlook

The better hydrated you are, the better everything in your body will work. Dehydration can cause small but significant changes in your overall health, including headache, anxiety, and even erectile dysfunction.

If you wait for thirst to tell you when you’re dehydrated, you’ve waited too long. Instead, you should aim to drink six to eight glasses of water every day, regardless of your thirst level. If you work outside or exercise for long periods of time, you need more. Read more about how much water you should drink per day.

Tips for erectile health

These tips for maintaining sexual health can help you avoid ED and experience a more satisfying sex life:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk for ED.
  • Exercise regularly. A sedentary lifestyle is unhealthy for many reasons. It can lead to weight gain, reduced circulation, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. These conditions can damage your blood vessels and increase your risk for ED.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet. One study found that a Mediterranean-style diet, which is one that has more fish, sources of heart-healthy fats like olive oil and nuts, and more fruits and vegetables, can reduce ED.
  • Drink in moderation. In the short term, alcohol can reduce sexual desire and make an erection harder to maintain. Prolonged alcohol use can cause damage to your heart, liver, and blood vessels.

It’s also important to have open, honest discussions with your sexual partner about erectile health. That can help reduce relationship stress, which can have an impact on your erectile health.

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