How long after stopping smoking does erectile dysfunction improve?

Reviewed by Yael Cooperman, MD, Ro, 

Written by Health Guide Team 

Reviewed by Yael Cooperman, MD, Ro, 

Written by Health Guide Team 

last updated: Feb 06, 2024

6 min read

While the health risks of smoking are widely acknowledged, one aspect often overlooked is the connection between smoking and erectile dysfunction (ED). Whether you’re smoking cigarettes or even vaping nicotine, using tobacco can really put a damper on your sex life. One clinical study about vaping and ED found that people using e-cigarettes on a daily basis were more than twice as likely to experience ED compared to those who had never vaped. Plain and simple, using nicotine (yes, even vaping) can damage your body in many ways. 

Whether you’re already experiencing erectile dysfunction or you’re interested in quitting smoking to prevent future issues, you’ll be making a big step toward improving your well-being. And while some nicotine users feel like “the damage is already done,” you may be surprised to learn just how quickly you can reverse a lot of that damage once you quit. In this article, we’ll dive into the causes of erectile dysfunction and its connection to smoking and how long you should expect to wait to see improvements once you quit. We'll also share some other sexual health benefits of quitting smoking and some top tips to help you kick the habit. 

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What’s the connection between smoking and erectile dysfunction? 

It’s no surprise that smoking is bad for you. In fact, more than eight million people die each year from smoking, and more than 16 million Americans experience a chronic health condition caused by smoking. 

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) can be caused by smoking. When you smoke, the nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes can damage your blood vessels and make them narrower and less flexible. This can make blood flow more difficult, resulting in reduced blood flow throughout the body––including to the penis. Proper erectile function requires reliable blood flow to the penis, which is how smoking directly contributes to ED. 

And here's another kicker – smoking also adds to the build-up of plaque in the arteries throughout the body, making it even trickier for blood to travel down there. So, in a nutshell, smoking isn't doing you any favors for your love life or your blood flow.

There is also an important chemical called nitric oxide (NO) that plays a key role in the whole process. Nitric oxide helps relax the blood vessels in the penis, making them wider and making way for more blood flow and––you guessed it––a stronger and longer-lasting erection. But the nasty stuff in cigarette smoke (like free radicals, metals, and even carbon monoxide) messes with the production of NO. Basically, this makes it harder for your blood vessels to open up, making it a real struggle to achieve and keep a good erection

And with all the damage caused by smoking to the blood vessels throughout your body, it can seem hopeless––especially if you’ve been smoking for decades. The good news, though, is that research shows that if you kick the smoking or vaping habit, things can start looking up for your erections. 

How long after quitting smoking does erectile dysfunction improve?

The timeline for improvement in ED after quitting smoking can vary from one person to another. Vascular (blood vessel) health, blood flow, blood pressure, and overall cardiovascular function improve relatively soon after quitting. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, circulation improves as soon as two weeks after quitting. 

You may see improvement in ED even within days after smoking cessation. In one small study with ten men experiencing ED, they saw a clear improvement in nighttime erections and stiffness when they didn't smoke for just 24 hours, compared to before they stopped smoking. Participants who used nicotine patches had the same improvement. 

It's important to note that the exact timeframe for improvement can depend on various factors, including your overall health, the duration and intensity of smoking, and other health conditions.

Additionally, lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and a healthy diet can further enhance the benefits of smoking cessation on erectile function.

We've talked about the fact that research shows ED incidence increases in current smokers but decreases after quitting, but there are additional sexual benefits, too. 

A 2020 study focusing on men between 30 and 60 who successfully quit smoking found improvements not only in erectile function but also in overall sexual satisfaction, orgasmic function, and even sexual desire.

Some other potential sexual benefits also include:

Tips for stopping smoking 

OK, so now you know the sexual benefits of stopping smoking (not to mention the overall benefits to your health, heart, lungs, and lifespan that we haven't discussed). But how do you go about quitting?

Let's be honest––it's not easy. The physical and psychological dependence, coupled with withdrawal symptoms, can make the process difficult. It often requires a combination of determination, support, and coping strategies to successfully overcome the hurdles associated with breaking the smoking habit. So here are our top ten tips to get you started:

  1. Set a quit date: Choose a specific date to quit smoking, giving yourself time to prepare mentally and emotionally.

  2. Seek support: Share your decision with friends, family, or a support group. Having a support system can make a significant difference.

  3. Get professional help: Professional help is crucial when quitting smoking because trained experts can provide personalized guidance tailored to your specific needs, increasing the likelihood of success. They offer evidence-based strategies, support, and resources that address both the physical and psychological aspects of nicotine addiction, significantly improving your chances of achieving a smoke-free life.

  4. Understand triggers: Identify situations or emotions that trigger the urge to smoke. Finding alternatives to cope with these triggers is crucial.

  5. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT): Consider using NRT, such as nicotine patches or nicotine gum, to manage nicotine withdrawal symptoms and cravings. You can speak to a professional about the options available. 

  6. Smoking cessation medications: Bupropion and varenicline are two medications commonly prescribed to support smoking cessation. Bupropion, an antidepressant, helps reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings by regulating neurotransmitters in the brain. Varenicline, specifically designed for smoking cessation, works by mimicking the effects of nicotine in the brain while also blocking nicotine from attaching to receptors, thereby reducing the pleasure associated with smoking and helping individuals quit. 

  7. Create a smoke-free environment: Rid your living spaces of cigarettes, lighters, and ashtrays. This helps create a smoke-free zone, reducing the temptation to smoke.

  8. Stay active: Engage in regular physical activity. Exercise not only helps distract from cravings but also improves mood and overall well-being.

  9. Healthy snacking: Opt for healthy snacks to manage weight gain often associated with quitting. Keep snacks like fresh fruits and vegetables on hand.

  10. Celebrate milestones: Acknowledge and celebrate your achievements along the way. Recognize your progress and stay motivated whether it's a day, a week, or a month without smoking.

Tips for treating erectile dysfunction 

If you find that your erectile dysfunction hasn’t improved despite your best efforts to quit smoking, there’s help out there. For starters, it's crucial if you have ED to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate and effective treatment based on your specific health condition and needs.

Treatment options vary and depend on the causes of ED. Here are several approaches:

  • Lifestyle changes: Adopting a healthier lifestyle can have a positive impact. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and weight management to reduce obesity all contribute to overall health, potentially improving erectile function.

  • Limit alcohol intake: Excessive alcohol consumption can contribute to ED. Moderating alcohol intake or abstaining may help improve erectile function.

  • Healthy diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins supports cardiovascular health, which is crucial for proper blood flow to the penis.

  • Manage stress: Stress and anxiety can contribute to ED. Learning stress management techniques, such as relaxation exercises or mindfulness, may be beneficial.

  • Counseling or therapy: Counseling or therapy can be effective for psychological factors affecting ED. Addressing relationship issues, performance anxiety, or stress can help improve sexual function.

  • Medications: Several medications, known as PDE5 inhibitors, are commonly prescribed to enhance blood flow to the penis and facilitate erections. These medications are safe, effective and commonly used to treat ED. Examples include: 

Viagra Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.

Cialis Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.

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  • Testosterone Replacement Therapy: In cases of low testosterone levels, your healthcare provider may recommend hormone replacement therapy to help improve sexual function.

  • Vacuum Devices: These devices create a vacuum to draw blood into the penis, helping achieve an erection. A constriction band is then placed at the base to maintain the erection.

  • Penile Implants: In severe cases, your healthcare provider may ask you to consider surgical insertion of penile implants. This is typically a last resort option when other treatments are ineffective.

While the exact timeline may vary from person to person, numerous studies suggest that the decision to stop smoking can lead to significant enhancements in erectile function. The body has a remarkable ability to heal and restore. By embracing a smoke-free life, you not only improve your overall well-being but also pave the way for a satisfying and healthier sex life.

DISCLAIMER

If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.


How we reviewed this article

Every article on Health Guide goes through rigorous fact-checking by our team of medical reviewers. Our reviewers are trained medical professionals who ensure each article contains the most up-to-date information, and that medical details have been correctly interpreted by the writer.

Current version

February 06, 2024

Written by

Health Guide Team

Fact checked by

Yael Cooperman, MD


About the medical reviewer

Yael Cooperman is a physician and works as a Senior Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.