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Can Dehydration Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM

Reviewed by Mike Bohl, MD

Written by Geoffrey C. Whittaker

Published 11/24/2022

Updated 04/01/2024

Dehydration isn’t a commonly discussed cause of erectile dysfunction. Other than lubrication, you might be wondering what link hydration could possibly have with sexual performance. Can dehydration cause erectile dysfunction (ED)? You might be surprised.

Staying hydrated is crucial. Water is essential to things like skin health, cognitive function, organ function, sleep quality and so, so many things in between. Believe it or not, dehydration can create additional barriers between you and a full erection.

Below, we’ll explain how and why dehydration affects ED, along with what — besides drinking a glass of water — you should be doing if you’re struggling to get or maintain an erection.

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Like other areas of physical well-being, hydration is connected to sexual health.

You probably already know that staying hydrated is key to being healthy. Drinking water helps regulate your body temperature, keeps your organs functioning properly and lubricates your joints, among other things.

So does dehydration cause erectile dysfunction? If so, how? Read on for answers.

Can Dehydration Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

Not directly, but it can play a role. Dehydration can trigger sexual dysfunction in a few ways. A critical one is when dehydrated men have a low volume of blood.

When a guy gets aroused, his brain needs to send signals to the blood vessels that supply blood to the penis. As blood flow increases, it gets trapped in two long chambers in the penis called the corpora cavernosa.

The nerves of the penis and blood flow are hugely important parts of getting and maintaining an erection. If any of your bodily processes aren’t working properly, it can impact your ability to get hard.

ED is, after all, defined as not being able to get or maintain an erection firm enough for sex — and one potential cause of temporary erectile dysfunction is dehydration.

Simply put, when you have a hefty volume of blood, it’s easier to get an erection.

So, if you’re dehydrated and your volume of blood dips, it may make it difficult to get an erection. A bodily response to dehydration is also to constrict the blood vessels, which is another thing that can reduce blood flow to the penis and make it harder to get an erection.

See our blog for more ways to increase blood flow to your penis.

Causes of ED

There can be physical and psychological causes of erectile dysfunction.

Other than dehydration, physical causes of ED include:

  • Chronic kidney disease

  • Hardening or blocked arteries (atherosclerosis)

  • Blood vessel disease

  • Heart disease or cardiovascular disease

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Low testosterone

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

  • Hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism (high or low levels of thyroid hormone)

  • Nerve damage or injury to the genitals

  • Injury from treatments for prostate cancer, including radiation therapy

  • Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea

  • Certain medications

Causes of ED relating to mental health can include:

  • Depression

  • Chronic stress

  • Anxiety, including sexual performance anxiety

  • Feelings of guilt about sex

  • Relationship issues

  • Low self-esteem or body image issues

We recommend chatting with a healthcare provider and potentially a mental health professional to figure out what might be causing your sexual dysfunction.

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The short answer? Yes, getting adequate water is important for sexual intercourse.

Dehydration can impact blood volume. When this is low, it can make it hard to get an erection.

But that’s not the only issue. When you’re dehydrated — even if it’s mild dehydration — you may feel dizziness, weakness and fatigue (more on the signs and symptoms in a minute).

Dehydration can affect your:

  • Energy levels

  • Hormones like angiotensin

  • Blood pressure

These men’s health functions are directly and indirectly tied to sexual dysfunction. So you may notice your sex drive dips when you’re dehydrated, even if it’s not affecting your blood flow specifically.

If you’re wondering if you’re dehydrated, there’s a good chance you are. Plenty of us get busy with jobs and other daily responsibilities. This can lead to putting your nutrition and hydration on the back burner, resulting in less-than-adequate water intake.

The good news is that it’s easily fixed by a quick water break. The bad news is that if you don’t hydrate, a lack of fluid intake can cause some undesirable side effects — and not just for your penis.

Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Fatigue

  • Dizziness or weakness

  • Headaches

  • Confusion

  • Dry mouth

  • High heart rate

  • Low blood pressure

  • Swollen feet

  • Constipation

  • Dark yellow pee

  • Muscle cramps

Experiencing any of these? It may be time to hit the water cooler.

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If you’re experiencing erectile dysfunction due to dehydration, the best thing to do is hydrate. We have some guidelines on how much is the right amount.

Generally, it’s recommended that men drink about eight glasses of water a day. Plain water is optimal, but if it bores you, try jazzing it up with lemon, cucumbers or berries. Unsweetened tea is good too.

What doesn’t count? Sugary drinks and alcohol — which aren’t all that healthy for you. (Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it makes your body lose water through urine).

If you feel adequately hydrated and are still experiencing ED, you may want to schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider.

Other Lifestyle Habits for Erectile Health

Besides drinking enough water throughout the day, a few other healthy lifestyle habits can help you sidestep ED and potentially have a more satisfying sex life.

This includes:

  • Maintaining a healthy body weight

  • Getting about 30 minutes of exercise a day, even if it’s just walking

  • Eating a nutritious diet full of lean protein, whole grains, fruits, veggies and heart-healthy fats

  • Limiting alcohol and smoking

We realize these can be easier said than done. If overhauling your lifestyle seems overwhelming, start with just one habit and build from there.

Medications for Erectile Dysfunction

You can also talk to a healthcare provider about the possibility of taking an ED medication. One of the most common ED prescription medications is sildenafil, the generic version of Viagra®.

Sildenafil is a phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor (PDE5 inhibitor). This type of drug works by relaxing the smooth muscles in blood vessels that supply blood to the penis to increase blood flow during arousal. Other common PDE5-inhibiting ED medications include tadalafil (generic for Cialis®), vardenafil and avanafil (sold as Stendra®).

A medical professional can help you assess the best ED medication for your specific situation. Hims even has chewable ED hard mints with the same active ingredients as other prescription erectile dysfunction meds.

We also offer online consultations, which makes it easy to connect with a healthcare provider online about sexual health issues.

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Does dehydration cause ED? Sometimes, but it’s easily addressed by upping your water intake.

That said, if you’re seeing chronic signs of ED and feel like you’re properly hydrated, it could mean there’s more at play than unquenched thirst.

Here’s what to keep in mind about ED and dehydration:

  • Staying hydrated is a vital part of any wellness routine. Proper hydration helps keep your joints lubricated, your organs functioning and more.

  • Drinking water and being adequately hydrated are important factors when it comes to sexual desire and erection function because hydration helps keep blood volume up. This helps blood flow through your body, which is critical for getting erections.

  • Ideally, you should drink at least eight glasses of water a day to stay hydrated.

  • If your ED issues persist despite being well-hydrated, you may need to speak with a medical professional. They can assess what’s going on and may be able to suggest ED medications (like sildenafil or tadalafil) to improve your sexual function.

Feel like there’s a bigger problem? It may be time to seek help. Hydrate and get professional support on our sexual health platform today.

8 Sources

  1. Definition & facts for erectile dysfunction. (July 2017). Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/definition-facts
  2. Capogrosso, P., et al. (2013). One patient out of four with newly diagnosed erectile dysfunction is a young man - worrisome picture from the everyday clinical practice. The journal of sexual medicine, 10(7): 1833-41. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jsm.12179
  3. Yafi, F.A., et al. (2017). Erectile dysfunction. Nat rev dis primers, 2: 16003. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5027992/
  4. Can Dehydration Cause Erectile Dysfunction? UGA Urology of Greater Atlanta. Retrieved from https://ugatl.com/can-dehydration-cause-erectile-dysfunction/
  5. Dehydration. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/9013-dehydration
  6. Sildenafil (2018). Medline Plus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a699015.html
  7. Tadalafil (2016). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a604008.html
  8. Sanchez, E., Pastuszak, A. W., & Khera, M. (2017). Erectile dysfunction, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular risks: facts and controversies. Translational andrology and urology, 6(1), 28–36. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5313297/
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Mike Bohl, MD

Dr. Mike Bohl is a licensed physician, a Medical Advisor at Hims & Hers, and the Director of Scientific & Medical Content at a stealth biotech startup, where he is involved in pharmaceutical drug development. Prior to joining Hims & Hers, Dr. Bohl spent several years working in digital health, focusing on patient education. He has also worked in medical journalism for The Dr. Oz Show (receiving recognition for contributions from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences when the show won Outstanding Informative Talk Show at the 2016–2017 Daytime Emmy® Awards) and at Sharecare. He is a Medical Expert Board Member at Eat This, Not That! and a Board Member at International Veterinary Outreach.

Dr. Bohl obtained his Bachelor of Arts and Doctor of Medicine from Brown University, his Master of Public Health from Columbia University, and his Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies—Journalism from Harvard University. He is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Healthcare Leadership at Cornell University. Dr. Bohl trained in internal medicine with a focus on community health at NYU Langone Health.

Dr. Bohl is Certified in Public Health by the National Board of Public Health Examiners, Medical Writer Certified by the American Medical Writers Association, a certified Editor in the Life Sciences by the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences, a Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Nutrition Coach by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and a Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist by the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs. He has graduate certificates in Digital Storytelling and Marketing Management & Digital Strategy from Harvard Extension School and certificates in Business Law and Corporate Governance from Cornell Law School.

In addition to his written work, Dr. Bohl has experience creating medical segments for radio and producing patient education videos. He has also spent time conducting orthopedic and biomaterial research at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals of Cleveland and practicing clinically as a general practitioner on international medical aid projects with Medical Ministry International.

Dr. Bohl lives in Manhattan and enjoys biking, resistance training, sailing, scuba diving, skiing, tennis, and traveling. You can find Dr. Bohl on LinkedIn for more information.

Publications

  • Younesi, M., Knapik, D. M., Cumsky, J., Donmez, B. O., He, P., Islam, A., Learn, G., McClellan, P., Bohl, M., Gillespie, R. J., & Akkus, O. (2017). Effects of PDGF-BB delivery from heparinized collagen sutures on the healing of lacerated chicken flexor tendon in vivo. Acta biomaterialia, 63, 200–209. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1742706117305652?via%3Dihub

  • Gebhart, J. J., Weinberg, D. S., Bohl, M. S., & Liu, R. W. (2016). Relationship between pelvic incidence and osteoarthritis of the hip. Bone & joint research, 5(2), 66–72. https://boneandjoint.org.uk/Article/10.1302/2046-3758.52.2000552

  • Gebhart, J. J., Bohl, M. S., Weinberg, D. S., Cooperman, D. R., & Liu, R. W. (2015). Pelvic Incidence and Acetabular Version in Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis. Journal of pediatric orthopedics, 35(6), 565–570. https://journals.lww.com/pedorthopaedics/abstract/2015/09000/pelvic_incidence_and_acetabular_version_in_slipped.5.aspx

  • Islam, A., Bohl, M. S., Tsai, A. G., Younesi, M., Gillespie, R., & Akkus, O. (2015). Biomechanical evaluation of a novel suturing scheme for grafting load-bearing collagen scaffolds for rotator cuff repair. Clinical biomechanics (Bristol, Avon), 30(7), 669–675. https://www.clinbiomech.com/article/S0268-0033(15)00143-6/fulltext

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