Is cortisol an endogenous mediator of erectile dysfunction in the adult male?

Harrina E. Rahardjo, Armin J. Becker, Viktoria Märker, Markus A. Kuczyk, Stefan Ückert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: It has been speculated for decades whether there is a significance of the adrenal corticosteroid cortisol in the process of male sexual function, including the control of sexual arousal and penile erection. In order to investigate further the role of the adrenocorticotropic axis in the physiological process of penile erection, we aimed to determine the course of cortisol in the cavernous and systemic blood through different stages of sexual arousal in patients suffering from erectile dysfunction (ED) in comparison to a cohort of healthy males. Methods: Fifty-four healthy adult males and 45 patients with ED were presented sexually explicit visual material in order to elicit tumescence and (in the healthy males) rigid erection. Blood was collected from the cavernous space (corpus cavernosum penis, CC) and a cubital vein (CV) at different stages of the sexual arousal cycle as indicated by the penile stages flaccidity, tumescence, rigidity (attained only by the healthy males) and detumescence. Cortisol (μg/dL serum) was measured using a radioimmunometric assay (RIA). Results: In healthy males, cortisol decreased in both the cavernous and systemic blood with the beginning of sexual stimulation (CV: 15 to 13, CC: 16 to 13). At detumescence, in the systemic circulation, no alterations in cortisol levels were registered, whereas it decreased further in the CC (to 12). In the ED patients, no significant changes in cortisol were noticed in the systemic and cavernous blood. Conclusions: The findings indicate that cortisol might act as an antagonist of the normal sexual response cycle of the adult male. A dysregulation of the secretion and/or degradation of the hormone might well play a role in the manifestation of ED.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)684-689
Number of pages6
JournalTranslational Andrology and Urology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


  • cavernous blood
  • Cortisol
  • erectile dysfunction
  • systemic blood


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