Men who have an overactive thyroid, known as hyperthyroidism, have an increased risk for severe erectile dysfunction, according to researchers in Italy and the United Kingdom. The researchers in this study are the first to show that hyperthyroidism can cause impotence.
Over the years, experts have identified a number of causes of erectile dysfunction ranging from lifestyle and nutrition choices (smoking, alcohol use, dietary habits, exercise), use of drugs and medications, side effect of prostate cancer treatment, psychological causes, and blunt trauma. Certain medical and environmental factors (e.g., diabetes, cardiovascular disease, exposure to toxins) also have been named as causes of erectile dysfunction.
Investigators from the University of Florence and the University of Manchester explain that as many as 60% of men with hyperthyroidism could have erectile dysfunction. Hyperthyroidism is characterized by excessive production of two thyroid hormones, thyroxine and triiodothyronine, which have an impact on bodily functions such as heart rate.
In the study, which included 6,573 men, the researchers found that men with hyperthyroidism were 14 times more likely than men without the thyroid disease to experience erectile dysfunction. The reverse was not observed, however: men with erectile dysfunction were not at greater risk of developing hyperthyroidism.
Corona G et al. Thyroid hormones and male sexual function. International Journal of Andrology 2012 Oct; 35(5): 668-79