COVID and its impact on sexual health
Welcome to this monthly series with Dr Francois Fong of Neo-Health Group in Hong Kong, which deals with issues related to sexual health. We hope it will contribute to public education about sexual health and help viewers, both women and men, learn about prevention and treatment for the benefit of their own health.
Today’s topic is the impact COVID19 has on sexual health.
Script of Interview
Interviewee Dr. Francois Fong (FF)
Position Managing Director
Company name Neo-Health Group (NHG)
Company website https://www.neohealth.com.hk/
Interviewer John D. Evans, CFA (JE)
Interview conducted on 12 May 2022
JE Okay, welcome to this monthly series with Dr. Francois Fong of Neo-Health Group in Hong Kong, which deals with issues related to sexual health. We hope it will contribute to public education about sexual health and help viewers, both women and men learn about prevention and treatment for the benefit of their own health. Today’s topic is the impact COVID-19 has on sexual health. Welcome Francois.
FF Good evening, John.
JE Okay, so let’s just kick things straight off and start off by giving the viewers a general overview of the risks to sexual health in men, specifically from the Corona virus.
FF Well after the outbreaks of Coronavirus we are starting to see more men with sexual problems come to us. I think we can divide into two categories. Some are affected directly from the Coronavirus, physically. So, I think the most common what we see is men with reduced sex drive and also erectile dysfunction. So, in some men we find that the male hormone testosterone is reduced and directly related to being infected by the virus or other external factors like staying at home, lack of social activity, lack of sexual activity and in some men, also their moods being affected. Quite commonly after men had infection, they will find that they feel weaker, both physically and also sexually. So, and there’s some study, one particularly done in Hong Kong, in Guinea pigs, it shows that the testes after being infected by Coronavirus is shrunken by up to 30%. So now whether that just happened in animals or you have the same sort of changes in men, I think more study which is required to study further. But also seen on the news about men complaining after being infected by Coronavirus that the penis size is reduced. And there’s one quite widely reported cases of a man in US reported his penis has shrunken by four centimeters. Now, we haven’t seen such extreme sort of cases yet but we have seen young men having some fibrosis of the penis, so pain and also hard tissues formations in the in the penis which affects the general life as well as their sexual life as well. And then in terms of, apart from physicals sorts of changes, I think COVID also induce a lot of psychological impacts. Some men they may have affected by anxiety disorder or depression related to Coronavirus and that again, indirectly will also affect their sexual function.
JE So, there’s been many different strains of the Coronavirus to date, maybe five or six, but are the risks the same under any one of the variants or do they vary and are more severe in one as opposed to another?
FF Well from observation, the earlier Coronavirus they are more target to the lung tissues. So, the mortality rate the death rate is certainly higher in the earliest strains. And then as it goes on with Delta, it become more infectious so more people have been infected. And now come to Omicron, the infectivity is much higher, but the vigilance of it is low. So, we probably see more in terms of number of patients who have another area being affected by the virus rather than mostly affected their lungs. But I think overall we see more cases affected by Coronavirus related complications.
JE Okay, so, if a man has had COVID Is there anything he should do differently than he would normally do to monitor the sexual health?
FF I think pretty much the same way as normal. So is the earliest sign that men can notice, is whether they have morning erections. So, if all sudden the morning erection reduces that usually indicates some problem. Now whether it is related to COVID or whether it’s for other issues they should see a doctor and find out the cause of it.
JE So, those have all been the issues about men. But now, is there any category of men of those who’ve had COVID that are more at risk than others?
FF Well, I think we’ve seen men at different age groups. So young men from in their 20’s up to older men in their 60s or 70s. Certainly those with chronic disease, the impact tends to be higher. And recovery time probably will take longer than the younger men. But in terms of sex life, some younger men are usually more active and they want it to be fixed much urgently.
JE Okay, so let’s, let’s turn to the other sex. Give us an overview of the impact Coronavirus on women’s sexual health and what responses or other issues do you see?
FF Well, I think the most common complaint that we see from women is they have some sort of menstrual irregularity after they got infected. Now, there’s some study also indicates the Coronavirus also affects the ovary, which is same organ or equivalent organs to testes in men. Whether that produce short term or long-term damages or complications, I think it’s time to tell how long the complication would be. But quite commonly we see women after having COVID At least some of them after a few months, there’s still been a little bit irregular.
JE Just a follow up question. I guess COVID is still relatively new, I guess it’s going to take a long period of time to really understand the issues.
FF That’s right. So, some new study would actually take out all the tissues and then you were found in Coronavirus in various body tissues. So, it seems that the virus is not just attacking the lungs. It’s all the all the organs.
JE So, for the final question for either men or women, does having the Coronavirus impact their usage of any medication that they’re using, specifically relative to sexual health? We’ve talked before about HIV prevention medication, does this change what they have to do or not do?
FF Weill, generally no. For men, remember the erectile dysfunction for example, they can still use PDE5 inhibitors. Why normally, and for those men will fibrosis, in the penis, like what I said, quite commonly will suggest them to start on PDE5 inhibitor to try to improve their blood flow at the earliest stage rather than wait for the inflammatory process to go on.
JE So, I guess like anything else something to monitor probably visit a doctor if you see anything? Because it’s just a resource?
FF Yeah, I think one common thing that we probably all tend to sort of make association of is that when we can find a particular cause for a disease, we blame it on the virus. But whether it’s truly because of virus, I think we need to do some more testing to actually find out the root cause rather than just playing the virus all the time.
JE Fair enough. Okay, well, thank you for your points there. I guess this is something that people will be studying over the longer term, but you have highlighted some important issues. And I guess my summary is just like anything with your health. Having regular checkups being aware of the body is very important.
JE Thank you very much for your time, Francois.
FF You’re welcome, John.
JE Take care. Thank you.