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Smoking Promotes Impotence

Limp Cigarette in Fingers Limp Cigarette in Fingers

Cigarette smoking is an established risk factor for erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence. In fact, in 2014, the acting surgeon general of the United States added erectile dysfunction to the list of health problems that can be caused by smoking. Among men under the age of 40, cigarette smoking is the biggest cause of erectile dysfunction.

Erection results from increased blood flow to the penis. This blood fills up the spongy tissues of the penis, making it become firm and erect. Restriction of blood flow to the penis can lead to impotence, an inability of a man to achieve and maintain an erection. The most common cause of erectile dysfunction is restriction of blood flow to the penis. Tobacco smoke toxins hurt the endothelial cells that line the arteries, thus shrinking the blood flow through the penile artery, and keeping blood flow restricted for up to 4 hours. Even worse, about 7 out of 10 cases of erectile dysfunction are due to disease that has already partially blocked the arteries that take blood to and through the penis.  

Surprisingly, the dreaded condition called impotence or ED (for Erectile Dysfunction) can actually serve as a warning that, if heeded, may save a man's life.  Milton Mills MD calls impotence the "canary in the coal mine."  When impotence shows up, the heart attack may be less than 2 years away, because the penile artery is even smaller than the heart arteries.  If the penile artery gets clogged, the heart arteries are probably getting clogged also.

Cigarettes contain a number of chemicals, including nicotine, arsenic, acetone, and carbon monoxide, that can trigger the formation of plaques and damage the blood vessels within the penis. This plaque narrows the blood vessels, preventing arteries from relaxing to accommodate more blood to flow into the penis, thereby making it more difficult to get or maintain an erection for satisfactory sexual intercourse. In addition, cigarette smoke generates free radicals and other chemicals that reduce the production of nitric oxide, a compound necessary for the maintenance of a firm erection because nitric oxide dilates arteries.

Erectile dysfunction is quite a common problem among men. According to the National Institute of Health, an estimated 30 million men in the United States are battling with erectile dysfunction. Men who smoked are at higher risk of suffering from this condition compared to men who have never touched a cigarette. 

The best way to prevent erectile dysfunction is to slow the risk of artery damage by quitting tobacco and by adopting a vegan diet. Putting a stop to cigarette smoking may make the difference between having a wonderful night versus a frustrating night with your partner.

Additional Information:

(1) Can Smoking Cigarettes Cause Impotence?

(2) Definition and Facts for Erectile Dysfunction

(3) Problems Caused by Cigarette Smoking

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Comments (8)

Rated 5 out of 5 based on 1 voters
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Is it possible to perform CT scans on the penile artery like the scans that can be done on the heart to check for penile artery atherosis?

  Russell Prentice
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We have seen the movie "The Game Changers" twice now and a very convincing part of the movie for many of the young men watching will be a device that they attached to some professional football players while they slept that recorded information about their erections while they slept and compared them on two different nights after eating a plant based meal one night and a meal with animal products the next. It is not exactly what you are asking but it convinced the football players. :-)


  Sean Carney
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I sought of strayed from the smoking topic to generalized ED caused from calcium / plaque build-up.

I was just thinking that recovery from a blocked artery may not be possible? If the CT could show the level of calcification e.g. like a calcium score does, the patient could have a realistic understanding of the probability for recovery.

  Russell Prentice
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Hi Russell,
Thank you for your questions about CT imaging of penile arteries for atherosclerosis related to ED. The short answer is yes, but the issues are complex.
Getting insurance companies to pay for four-dimensional CT angiography (4D-CTA) in the diagnosis of arterial erectile dysfunction (ED) using 320-detector row dynamic volume CT is nearly impossible. I have never seen any insurer pay for that, nor have I ordered it, because of the cost.

That being said, some guys are going to suffer ED despite not showing significant atherosclerosis on imaging, due to the effect on nitric oxide levels when endothelial cells are damaged by meat, dairy, eggs, oil, alcohol, and caffeine.

  Linda Carney MD
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Thank you Dr. Carney. It came to mind because I had a calcium score on Saturday and I did that out of pocket. But I totally understand your point and I am not sure whether the CT was a 320-detector row dynamic volume CT or not.

I understand your second point re the damage to the endothelial cells, however; there is evidence that that is reversible. I assume a blocked artery may be a different story :)

Thanks again I appreciate the reply.

  Russell Prentice
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If a patient has stellar insurance, it might be possible to get the insurer to pay for a CT angiogram of the pelvis. CTA of the Pelvis with IV contrast might be able to give us the info needed about erectile dysfunction due to atherosclerosis. I would not use oral contrast, just the IV contrast, in this case.

  Linda Carney MD
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Russell, you are absolutely correct that plaque reversal in the coronary(heart) and leg arteries has definitely been demonstrated by Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr as he has reported in several journals and you can see the images in the book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease as well as in the movie Forks Over Knives. One of the study participants actually says in the movie that the guys in the study noticed that they had 'no trouble raising the flag', thus indicating that the plaque in the penile arteries was also being reduced if not reversed. I think that may be the answer you are looking for. =) That would be an unequivocal "YES!"

  Julia N Danforth
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