Study authors hypothesized that factors such as depression, IBD medications, and stomach or rectal surgery may play a role in the increased risk of erectile dysfunction in patients with IBD.
The National Institutes of Health defines erectile dysfunction as a condition in which one is unable to obtain or sustain an erection firm enough or long enough to have satisfactory sexual intercourse. Many factors can contribute to erectile dysfunction, including psychological conditions such as depression or anxiety or other chronic health conditions such as hypertension or diabetes.
Some studies have found that inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, can affect sexual health in men. However, whether there is a causal relationship between erectile dysfunction and IBD is still unclear.
A study published earlier this month in Scientific Reports used Mendelian randomization trials to explore whether IBD causes erectile dysfunction. Mendelian randomization uses genetic instrumental variables to investigate the causal relationships between clinical exposures and potential health outcomes, eliminating the influence of confounding factors and reverse causality. For this study, erectile dysfunction was used as an outcome factor, and IBD was considered an exposure factor.
The study, co-led by Di Chen from the department of urology at the First Affiliated Hospital of Guangxi Medical University in Nanning, China, and Chao Zhou from the department of assisted reproduction at Nanxishan Hospital of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in Guilin, China, used data from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to obtain data sets from 12,882 cases of IBD and 21,770 controls, 5,956 cases of Crohn’s disease ad 14,927 controls, and 6,968 cases of ulcerative colitis and 20,464 controls. All data sets were from the European population.
After analysis, the researchers found that IBD had a causal effect on erectile dysfunction. Upon subtype analysis, Chen, Zhou, and their colleagues found that Crohn’s disease may contribute to erectile dysfunction, but ulcerative colitis did not.
The authors hypothesized that factors such as depression, IBD medications, and stomach or rectal surgery may play a role in the increased risk of erectile dysfunction in patients with IBD. A primary limitation of this study was sourcing data from primarily European populations, raising concerns about generalizing the results to other populations.
The researchers recommend further research to investigate the mechanisms by which IBD may cause erectile dysfunction.