Research indicates that wearable devices may help overcome sexual dysfunction
By Lisette Hilton
Illustration by Mark Smith
esearchers at the Miller School’s Desai Sethi Urology Institute noticed an uptick during the pandemic in young men with psychogenic erectile dysfunction. This is erectile dysfunction that has no physical cause, but rather is anxiety-induced, according to Ranjith Ramasamy, M.D., associate professor of urology and director of reproductive urology at the institute.
“Most of the studies we do aim to solve patients’ problems, and this is a big concern among young men,” Dr. Ramasamy said. “We know that getting anxious before having intercourse results in a rise in heart rate and the release of adrenaline. When anxiety levels are high, even medications like Cialis or Viagra simply don’t work.”
To better understand the problem, Dr. Ramasamy and colleagues first had to determine what normal increases in heart rate look like in couples who do not have sexual dysfunction. They measured heart rate using Fitbit technology to noninvasively record heart rate changes during sexual activities. The study subjects — three men and three women with no sexual dysfunction concerns — wore the Fitbit Versa 3 device for the six-week study, recording when they had engaged in intercourse.
The findings suggest that wearable devices are reliable measures of physiologic changes during sexual activity, and pave the way for research aimed at helping individuals overcome sexual dysfunction. The researchers will now begin recruiting patients with psychogenic sexual dysfunction to do similar studies.
This is only the beginning of sexual research using noninvasive wearable technology, according to Dr. Ramasamy. “The outcomes from this study show promise in helping to diagnose problems, not only with sexual dysfunction but also with other psychological factors that impact sexual quality,” he said.