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In a new study, researchers demonstrated that COVID-19 can lead to long-term erectile dysfunction, yet another sign that victims of the deadly virus often suffer from lasting symptoms even long after they recovered from the viral infection itself.

The study, published in the World Journal of Men's Health last week, found that COVID-19 can result in endothelial dysfunction, in which large blood vessels on the heart's surface constrict instead of dilate. This blood vessel dysfunction can then contribute to erectile dysfunction, according to the researchers.

The results only examined tissues from only four men — two with a history of COVID infection, and two without — who underwent penile prosthesis surgery to treat erectile dysfunction. That's a very small sample size and may or may not be generalizable to the greater population, but the work builds on separate research, published earlier this year in the journal Andrology, which found that men who had previously had COVID were six times as likely as other men to develop erectile dysfunction.

"Our research shows that COVID-19 can cause widespread endothelial dysfunction in organ systems beyond the lungs and kidneys," said University of Miami Miller School of Medicine researcher and author Ranjith Ramasamy, in a statement. "The underlying endothelial dysfunction that happens because of COVID-19 can enter the endothelial cells and affect many organs, including the penis."

COVID-19 infection proved devastating to many.

"In our pilot study, we found that men who previously did not complain of erectile dysfunction developed pretty severe erectile dysfunction after the onset of COVID-19 infection," Ramasamy said.

Their conclusion comes after finding that two out of the four men who had previously caught COVID-19 had evidence of endothelial dysfunction. The other two who were free of the virus did not.

"These latest findings are yet another reason that we should all do our best to avoid COVID-19," first author Elyahu Kresch, a medical student working with Ramasamy, said in the statement. "We recommend vaccination and to try to stay safe in general."

READ MORE: Researchers Report COVID-19 Found in Penile Tissue Could Contribute to Erectile Dysfunction [University of Miami Miller School of Medicine]

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