Sex Talk

Can cycling really cause erectile dysfunction?

Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng answers your sex questions

08 July 2018 - 00:00
The concerns regarding cycling and erectile dysfunction are due to the blunt trauma caused by straddling a bike seat.
The concerns regarding cycling and erectile dysfunction are due to the blunt trauma caused by straddling a bike seat.
Image: 123RF/36clicks

Q. I just bought a bike, but then I read that cycling can cause erectile dysfunction?

A. The health benefits of cycling is burning calories and improving cardiovascular health and fitness. There has been more research and discussions on the effect of cycling on healthy men who lack the typical risk factors, such as hypertension and cigarette smoking and develop erectile dysfunction.

Some observational studies have not found a clear connection between high amounts of cycling and ED or infertility. However, according to the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, in certain circumstances it might lead to erectile problems. The risk was highest among men who cycled more than three hours a week.

The concerns regarding cycling and erectile dysfunction are due to the blunt trauma caused by straddling and the chronic compression is believed to be the inciting factor for the localised blood-vessel injury. The nerve and blood supply compression to the penis and perineum while seated for a prolonged time are the reasons for erectile dysfunction.

If you have tingling or numbness in your penis after rides, these are warning signs that your cycling could lead to erectile problems

If you have tingling or numbness in your penis after rides, these are warning signs that your cycling could lead to erectile problems and eventually, erectile dysfunction.

Pay attention to ergonomics - wear padded bike shorts for extra protection. Narrow seats and those with a V-shape in the saddle nose decrease oxygen to the penis. The wider, well-padded saddle is best to absorb the impact of the ride. Some seats are gel-filled and a good choice.

The handlebar is also important. Ensure you have the ideal seat and handlebar height that places minimal pressure on the perineum. When riding over any bumpy surface like railroad tracks, trail debris or washboard terrain, get out of the saddle and use your legs as shock absorbers.

If you have ongoing concern about the risks, speak to your urologist.

• Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng (MBChB), sexual and reproductive health practice, Disa Clinic, safersex.co.za.

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