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UTIs and Erectile Dysfunction: What’s the Link?

Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM

Reviewed by Mike Bohl, MD

Written by Rachel Sacks

Published 06/25/2022

Updated 01/14/2024

It’s something we do every day, at least once a day, but don’t give too much thought to. While urinating is a sign that our body is removing waste and going to the bathroom a lot might indicate you’re drinking enough water, there is such a thing as urinating too much - if it’s because of some sort of problem.

Frequent urination is never an ideal situation to encounter, and it’s not just the time spent on constant bathroom trips that can be an issue. When your urinary tract doesn’t function properly, this could be a sign of specific health problems, such as prostate problems or urinary tract infections (UTIs). 

Which leads us to an important question: can urinary problems cause erectile dysfunction (ED) or affect your sex life?

If you’ve been dealing with ED and making more trips to the bathroom lately, you might wonder if one is causing the other. We’ll break down whether there’s a connection between frequent urination and erectile dysfunction, and answer the question: Can UTI cause erectile dysfunction?

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Yes, drinking a lot of water can cause frequent urination (at least you’re staying hydrated!). But frequent bathroom trips might be a sign of certain health problems.

Frequent urination can be caused by many factors, including common health conditions like UTIs, as well as certain habits and lifestyle factors.

Some health conditions that can cause more trips to the bathroom include:

  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH, which is an enlarged prostate gland, is a common medical condition. It often occurs in middle-aged and older men. As the prostate grows, it may press on the urethra, thicken the bladder wall and make the bladder weaker. This can cause urinary retention, urgent or frequent urination, difficulty controlling the emptying of urine and other issues.

  • Urinary tract infection (UTI). Infections can develop at several locations in your urinary tract, including your bladder, kidneys, ureters and urethra — the tube that empties urine from your penis. Most of these infections develop when bacteria enter your urethra. UTIs are much more common in women and are rare in men. UTIs can affect urination in several ways, including causing frequent or painful urine flow, bloody urine or other urine abnormalities and a burning sensation when you pee. If you have a UTI, you may feel like you need to urinate even if your bladder is empty.

  • Other kidney and urinary tract disorders. Other disorders that affect your kidneys and urinary tract, such as kidney stones or overactive bladder (OAB) syndrome, may cause bladder control problems, including the need to urinate more frequently than normal.

  • Nerve disease and nerve damage. Some diseases and injuries that cause damage to nerves in your pelvis and surrounding area may affect your ability to control urine flow and contribute to issues such as frequent urination and urine leakage.

Other medical conditions and habits can affect your need to urinate, including your use of alcohol and/or recreational drugs, anxiety disorders, poorly controlled diabetes, spine problems, stroke, tumors or growths in your pelvis, bladder conditions such as interstitial cystitis and pelvic floor dysfunction.

But is there a specific connection between UTIs and erectile dysfunction? Can one cause the other?

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If urinary tract infections affect your bladder, kidneys and urethra, then you might think there’s a connection between frequent urination and ED. But is there?

Neither frequent urination nor UTIs cause ED or other sexual function issues on their own. However, some medical conditions that may cause you to urinate often are associated with a higher risk of developing erectile dysfunction.

The link between frequent urination and ED is something experts have been researching for some time.

A 2008 study of over 350 aging males between 50 and 80 years old with lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) found that 68.2 percent experienced sexual dysfunction.

LUTS are symptoms that affect the lower urinary tract’s ability to store and empty urine, such as urinary hesitancy, urgency, frequency and dribbling, or nocturia (nighttime urination). These symptoms all tend to occur more often in older men.

A 2013 review also found overwhelming evidence connecting erectile dysfunction and LUTS. It also noted that knowing which symptoms of ED or urinary problems to look for could help healthcare providers diagnose other health conditions like hypertension (high blood pressure). Importantly, though, LUTS can be caused by many things, including an enlarged prostate — so a connection between LUTS and ED isn’t necessarily a connection between UTIs and ED.

That said, some medical conditions that may cause you to urinate often are associated with an increased risk of developing erectile dysfunction. 

For example, studies suggest that prostate diseases like BPH and prostate cancer could also affect sexual function. Poorly controlled diabetes, spine health problems and use of radiation treatment are all also potential causes of frequent urination, and may be risk factors for erectile dysfunction.

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While there’s not a direct link between having a UTI and ED, you should talk to your healthcare provider about treatment if you’re experiencing one or both of these conditions.

UTIs can usually be treated with antibiotics and pain-relieving medication.

For ED, a provider may recommend a few different treatment options, including medications, lifestyle changes or a combination of both.

Effective treatments for ED include the use of medication known as phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors — or PDE5 inhibitors, for short. 

Erections are all about healthy nerve function and blood flow. When you’re aroused, the nerves trigger the release of natural chemicals that result in widening of your blood vessels allowing blood to flow more easily into your penile tissues and, making you ready for sexual activity.

PDE5 inhibitors work to expand the blood vessels that help increase blood flow to the penis, leading to firmer erections. You may have heard of some of these drugs, like:

If you’re dealing with both erectile dysfunction and BPH, tadalafil is the only option FDA approved to effectively treat both conditions.

You can learn more about how these medications work and other ways to increase blood flow to your penis in this guide.

Psychological causes of ED can include daily stress from work, relationship problems or mental health issues like depression. Even sexual performance anxiety can result in ED and other issues that affect your sex life.

Fortunately, a potential solution for psychological ED is psychotherapy or “talk therapy.” There are several types of therapy that can help you overcome any anxiety or stress that comes up in the bedroom.

If you’ve recently noticed that you urinate more frequently than before, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider, who will typically ask you about your symptoms and medical history. Make sure to let them know if you’ve experienced issues with frequent or excessive urination before and if the issues were caused by a specific medical condition.

A urologist (someone who specializes in urology or urinary tract health) may also perform tests such as a urinalysis test, a CT scan of your abdomen, a kidney ultrasound or a clean-catch urine culture to identify the bacteria causing your UTI and determine the best antibiotic treatment.

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If you’ve started to urinate more often than you used to, your first thought is probably “Where’s the closest bathroom?” After that, you may think “Is this a bigger health issue? Will this affect my sex life?”

  • Frequent urination and erectile dysfunction are sometimes related to the same factors, such as benign prostate hyperplasia, cardiovascular diseases like high blood pressure or atherosclerosis, older age, obesity and unhealthy lifestyle choices.

  • In some cases, frequent urination, urinary incontinence and other lower urinary tract symptoms can affect your sexual health and may lead to erectile dysfunction. However, ED doesn’t directly cause frequent urination, and frequent urination doesn’t cause ED. 

  • ED is treated using medications called PDE5 inhibitors, other medications, lifestyle changes like quitting smoking and therapy for psychological causes of erectile dysfunction. UTIs are typically treated with antibiotics.

You can consult with a healthcare provider about erectile dysfunction medications and other treatments to improve sexual dysfunction — like premature ejaculation — and your overall quality of life. While these medications are often available as oral tablets, you can choose chewable hard mints ED medication for a more convenient option.

18 Sources

  1. Urologic Diseases - NIDDK. (n.d.). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases
  2. Frequent or urgent urination. (2022, April 10). MedlinePlus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003140.htm
  3. Ng, M., Baradhi, K.M. Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia. [Updated 2022 Aug 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK558920/
  4. Prostate Enlargement (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia) - NIDDK. (n.d.). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/prostate-problems/prostate-enlargement-benign-prostatic-hyperplasia
  5. Bladder Infection (Urinary Tract Infection—UTI) in Adults - NIDDK. (n.d.). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/bladder-infection-uti-in-adults
  6. Sabih, A., Leslie, S.W. Complicated Urinary Tract Infections. [Updated 2023 Nov 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK436013/
  7. Urinary tract infection - adults. (2022, August 15). MedlinePlus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000521.htm
  8. Miller, J. M., Garcia, C. E., Hortsch, S. B., Guo, Y., & Schimpf, M. O. (2016). Does Instruction to Eliminate Coffee, Tea, Alcohol, Carbonated, and Artificially Sweetened Beverages Improve Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms?: A Prospective Trial. Journal of wound, ostomy, and continence nursing : official publication of The Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society, 43(1), 69–79. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4799659/
  9. Mehraban, D., Naderi, G. H., Yahyazadeh, S. R., & Amirchaghmaghi, M. (2008). Sexual Dysfunction in Aging Men With Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms. Urology Journal, 5(4), 260-264. Retrieved from https://ojs3.sbmu.ac.ir/urolj/index.php/uj/article/view/35
  10. Lepor H. (2005). Pathophysiology of lower urinary tract symptoms in the aging male population. Reviews in urology, 7 Suppl 7(Suppl 7), S3–S11. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1477625/
  11. Urinating more at night. (2023, July 1). MedlinePlus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003141.htm
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  13. Ma, C., Su, H., & Li, H. (2021). Global Research Trends on Prostate Diseases and Erectile Dysfunction: A Bibliometric and Visualized Study. Frontiers in oncology, 10, 627891. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7908828/
  14. Symptoms & Causes of Erectile Dysfunction - NIDDK. (n.d.). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/symptoms-causes
  15. Yafi, F. A., Jenkins, L., Albersen, M., Corona, G., Isidori, A. M., Goldfarb, S., Maggi, M., Nelson, C. J., Parish, S., Salonia, A., Tan, R., Mulhall, J. P., & Hellstrom, W. J. (2016). Erectile dysfunction. Nature reviews. Disease primers, 2, 16003. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5027992/
  16. Treatment for Erectile Dysfunction - NIDDK. (n.d.). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/treatment
  17. Dhaliwal, A., Gupta, M. PDE5 Inhibitors. [Updated 2023 Apr 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK549843/
  18. Hatzimouratidis K. (2014). A review of the use of tadalafil in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia in men with and without erectile dysfunction. Therapeutic advances in urology, 6(4), 135–147. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4054509/
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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