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Stress-induced impotence may be permanent

Stress emasculates men. Stress not only lowers testosterone levels, but also affects the structure of the penis in the worst way possible, urologists at the State University of Rio de Janeiro discovered when they did experiments on male rats.

In an article that has been published in the Journal of Andrology, the Brazilians describe an experiment in which they confined young rats in a cylinder so that they could not move for two hours each day over a period of five consecutive weeks. Those are stressful conditions for rats. The rats in the control group were not restricted in this way.

At the end of the five weeks, the rats in the stress group were lighter than the rats in the control group. Their cortisol level had risen and their testosterone level had gone down. The adrenals, which produce the stress hormone adrenalin, had become enlarged. These are all classic effects of chronic stress.

The Brazilians also examined the tissue of the corpus cavernosum in the rats' penis. The corpus cavernosum is the largest piece of erectile tissue in the penis. It consists of a dense network of flexible blood vessels that can become engorged with blood. When this happens an erection occurs.

Stress-induced impotence may be permanent

The researchers discovered that chronic stress changes the structure of the corpus cavernosum. The rats in the stress group had 36 percent less smooth muscle in their erectile tissue than the rats in the control group. They also had 20 percent more connective tissue, which reduced the ability of the corpus cavernosum to swell to.

The official name of this condition is penile fibrosis. Doctors often find it in impotent males. Causes include a too low androgen level, diabetes or simply aging. And now we can add stress to the list too.

Stress-induced impotence may be permanent

The effects of stress on hormone levels are usually temporary; but the effect of stress on tissue structure may not be. If humans react to stress in the same way as rats do, then chronic stress is even worse for your sex life than we already thought. And the same goes for women too. The erectile tissue in the clitoris is strikingly similar to that in the penis.

J Androl. 2012 Jul-Aug;33(4):735-9.

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