Purpose: The association of erectile dysfunction (ED) with vascular damage in men without clinical atherosclerosis is unknown. By B-mode ultrasound we evaluated intima-media thickness (IMT) of common carotid arteries, a measure of vascular damage, in men reporting ED with or without vascular risk factors (VRFs) but no clinical atherosclerosis.
Materials and methods: IMT of common carotid arteries was evaluated in 270 men with ED. A total of 50 men (mean age +/- SD 39.84 +/- 12.5 years) had no VRFs, 100 (mean age 47.92 +/- 10.94 years) were overweight and/or had hyperlipidemia, and 120 (mean age 53.95 +/- 9.73 years) were affected by type 2 diabetes and/or essential arterial hypertension.
Results: IMT was significantly lower in men with no VRFs compared to men with VRFs (p <0.05), and correlated with the severity of ED evaluated through the Sexual Health Inventory for Men (p = 0.0008). Of men with VRFs 17.7% (39 of 220) showed an IMT score indicative of vascular damage (1.00 mm or greater), while only 1 man with no VRFs had a high IMT. Men with VRFs and a high carotid IMT score demonstrated more severe ED, were older and had a higher serum level of C-reactive protein compared to men with VRFs and an IMT of less than 1.00 mm (p <0.05). A high IMT score but not an increased measure for each VRF, including aging, significantly increased the risk of severe ED (odds ratio 2.6, confidence interval 1.1 to 5.9) even after controlling for smoking and drugs associated with ED.
Conclusions: ED in men with VRFs was the only clinical correlate of unrecognized atherosclerosis of common carotid arteries.