By the age of 50, 50% of men suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED).
By the same age, 85% of men notice that their hair has thinned significantly. That begs the question: is there a link between ED and hair loss?
Besides the age at which they become more prevalent, both ED and hair loss share other commonalities. They’re caused by some of the same conditions and they also share some similar risk factors.
What Is ED?
The most basic definition of ED is the inability to get and keep an erection that’s firm enough to engage in sexual activity. For many men, ED also affects their self-confidence and can lead to relationship problems.
While most men have trouble getting and keeping an erection from time to time, ED is an ongoing condition. Symptoms of ED include:
- Inability to get an erection every time you want to have sex
- Difficulty maintaining an erection long enough for satisfactory sex
- Not able to get an erection at all
Other symptoms of ED include low libido and poor circulation.
The causes of ED are complex because sexual arousal is a complex process. Male sexual arousal involves hormones, emotions, nervous systems, muscles, blood vessels, and the brain. An issue with any one of those, or a combination, may lead to ED.
But underlying medical and mental health conditions can also affect ED. Things like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, excessive stress, sleep disorders, and tobacco use.
This is why ED is best understood as a condition that results from a person’s general health. It’s less about an unhealthy relationship with sex and more about physical and psychological processes and factors.
What Is Hair Loss?
Hair loss is gradual and overall thinning of hair. It typically progresses to losing the majority of your hair. In the same way as ED affects self-confidence, hair loss can affect self-image as well as your personal, social, and professional life.
The three most common types of hair loss are:
- Androgenic alopecia. This genetic condition affects men and women. When it occurs in men, it’s called male pattern baldness. The hairline may begin to recede as early as adolescence and eventually causes hair loss from the crown and front of the scalp.
- Telogen effluvium. When your hair is in the resting stage of the growth cycle, it’s called the telogen stage. Telogen effluvium is an acute or chronic condition that results from stress. It’s characterized by your hair being pressured into that state.
- Alopecia areata. This hair loss condition results in the hair falling out in round patches. This may occur on the scalp or anywhere else on the body. The hair may grow back, or it could be lost for years at a time.
Underlying causes of these hair loss conditions include hormonal changes, genetics, and some medical conditions. Hair loss is triggered by stress, certain medications, physical trauma, and poor circulation.
Links Between ED and Hair Loss
ED and hair loss share some common causes and risk factors. And some medications used to treat hair loss may be directly linked to ED. We’ll explain all three links between ED and hair loss in more detail below.
Heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure are three health conditions that contribute to both ED and hair loss. The medications for treating these health problems may also pose a risk for the development of either condition.
Both ED and hair loss share hormones and hormonal changes in common as well. The hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) plays a big role in hair loss in men. And DHT is a by-product of testosterone, which is the main hormone involved in ED
Although hair loss and ED are not considered normal parts of getting older, age is a common risk factor for both. As age increases, so does the risk of developing both conditions. In fact, by age 35 years 40% of men have hair loss and by age 40, 40% of men are affected by ED.
Another common and often underreported risk factor for hair loss and ED is an unhealthy diet. Poor diets that cause weight gain leads to reduced vascular function. And poor circulation and blood flow is a contributing factor to both ED and hair loss.
And the number of chemicals we’re exposed to may also be causing hair loss and ED. Processed foods and meats injected with hormones can affect testosterone levels, which is an important factor in both these conditions.
They also share stress in common. Stress is one of the underlying causes of ED as well as hair loss associated specifically with Telogen effluvium.
We’ve already discussed how medications for health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes may contribute to ED and hair loss. But there’s also a direct link between certain hair loss medications and ED.
A 2017 study conducted by Northwestern Univesity looked at how hair loss drugs Finasteride and Dutasteride were linked to ED. They focused specifically on the chemical 5a-RI in these drugs.
The study found that the risk of experiencing ED increased with exposure to these chemicals. They also found that these chemicals increased the risk of long-term ED.
Of the 11,9090 participants in the study, 167 developed ED that continued for longer than 3 months after stopping the drug. The same study found that men under the age of 42 were at a higher risk of this side effect when they took the drug for more than one year.
Treatments for ED and Hair Loss
Lifestyle changes may reduce the risks of developing ED and hair loss. Because it’s a common cause of both, working to reduce stress in your life can prevent the development of ED and hair loss.
A change in diet may also improve these conditions. Reduce your intake of calories and foods that are high in fat and low in nutrients. Those foods lead to obesity and vascular problems that cause both ED and hair loss.
There are also treatments specific to both conditions available. Below, we outline the best treatments for ED and hair loss.
Hair Loss Treatments
To reduce the risk of developing long-term ED, you might consider avoiding medications like Finasteride and Dutasteride. There are three other common treatments for hair loss that may help with thinning hair. The treatment that’s best for you depends on your type of hair loss.
Minoxidil, more popularly known by the brand name Rogaine, is an antihypertensive vasodilator medication that originally developed to treat blood pressure. It may stimulate hair growth and slow the process of hair loss.
Low-Level Laser Light Therapy treats hair loss at a cellular level. The idea behind this treatment is that lasers can stimulate cellular activity which, in turn, encourages hair growth. A typical session takes only 20 minutes to perform, and it’s 100% safe.
Platelet Rich Plasma treatment involves microinjections of platelets that are taken from the blood of the patient. The platelets are injected using microneedles and are thought to stimulate and courage hair growth.
ED treatments work with the process of sexual arousal in men. Sexual stimulation in the male brain produces nitric oxide. The nitric acid causes a series of chemicals reactions that result in increased blood flow to the penis. How much of an increase? At least 6 times as much.
When an erection is no longer needed, chemicals called phosphodiesterases reverse that process. They’re responsible for the penis returning to a flaccid state. When the chemical reactions that cause the blood flow and the phosphodiesterases aren’t balanced, it causes ED.
ED treatments work on restoring that balance. They do that by inhibiting the phosphodiesterases in the body. These treatments are called PDE-5 inhibitors, and they’re the most common type of therapy for ED.
PDE-5 inhibitors are infamous for their brand names. These include Viagra (Sildenafil), Cialis (Tadalafil), and Levitra (Vardenafil).
Viagra is an FDA-approved treatment for erectile dysfunction that comes in doses ranging from 25 mg to 100 mg. It lasts for up to eight hours and has few conflicting medications. Typically side effects include headache, flushing, nausea, dizziness, abnormal vision, and rash.
Cialis is FDA-approved to treat both erectile dysfunction and enlarged prostate. It comes in doses ranging from 2.5 mg to 20 mg, and it can be taken as little as 30 minutes prior to sexual activity. It lasts for as long as 26 hours and common side effects include headache, congestion, flushing, back pain, and pain in limbs or stomach.
Levitra is similar to Viagra in that it lasts up to eight hours and you take it one hour before sexual activity. However, it may cause irregular heartbeat as well as headache, flushing, congestion, flu syndrome, nausea, sinusitis, and back pain.
Treating Hair Loss and ED Discreetly
Both ED and hair loss share common underlying causes such as stress, certain medical conditions, and hormones. The risk of developing either increase with age as well as factors such as poor diet. So while one doesn’t necessarily cause the other, they certainly share some things in common.
One important thing that ED and hair loss have in common is that they’re treatable. And we can help you with that in the most discreet and safe way. Check out how it works here.
The best part? You’ll never have to visit a doctor in person. Our board-certified physicians are available virtually. You can consult with them from your phone, laptop or table from the comfort of your home.