Diagnosing Erectile Dysfunction
What to Expect During Your Doctor Visit
- Men are frequently reluctant to discuss their sexual problems, particularly erectile dysfunction or ED, and often need to be specifically asked.
- You can assist and initiate this process just by telling your doctor directly that erectile dysfunction is a problem for you. Opening a dialogue allows your doctor to begin the investigation or refer you to a consultant.
- Scheduling enough time with your doctor to conduct a full interview and physical examination is important.
- After performing a full interview, physical examination, and laboratory testing, your doctor can then discuss your particular situation, the most likely cause, and reasonable treatment options.
Sexual, Medical, and Psychosocial History to Diagnose Erectile Dysfunction
The first step in the medical management of erectile dysfunction is taking a thorough sexual, medical, and psychosocial history. This is a delicate topic, and your doctor should be sensitive and caring to make you comfortable about sharing these intimate details of your private life.
While conducting a full interview, specific questions like these will probably be asked:
- Your doctor will ask if you have difficulty obtaining an erection, if the erection is suitable for penetration, if the erection can be maintained until the partner has achieved orgasm, if ejaculation occurs, if you have lost interest in sex (libido), and if both partners have sexual satisfaction.
- You will be asked about current medications you are taking, about any surgery you may have had, and about other disorders (eg, history of trauma, prior prostate surgery, radiation therapy).
- The doctor will want to know all medications you have taken during the past year, including all vitamins and other dietary supplements.
- Tell the doctor about your tobacco use, alcohol intake, and caffeine intake, as well as any illicit drug use.
- Your doctor will be looking for indications of depression. You will be asked about libido (sexual desire), problems and tension in your sexual relationship, insomnia, lethargy, moodiness, nervousness, anxiety, and unusual stress from work or at home.
- You will be asked about your relationship with your sexual partner. Does your partner know you are seeking help for this problem? If so, does your partner approve? Is this a major issue between you? Is your partner willing to participate with you in the treatment process?
Your doctor will also want your candid answers to questions like these:
- How long has a problem existed? Did a specific event, such as a major surgery or a divorce, occur at the same time?
- Do you have diminished sexual desire? If so, do you think it is just a reaction to poor sexual performance?
- How hard or rigid are your erections now? Are you ever able to obtain an erection suitable for penetration even momentarily? Is maintaining the erection a problem?
- Can you achieve orgasm, climax, and ejaculation? If so, does it feel normal to you? Does the penis become somewhat rigid at climax?
- Do you still have morning erections?
- Is penile curvature (Peyronie's disease) a problem?
- What would be your preferred frequency of intercourse, assuming the erections were working normally? How would your sexual partner answer this same question? What was your sexual frequency before the erections became a problem?
- Have you already tried any treatments for erectile dysfunction? If so, what were they and how did they work for you? Were there any problems or side effects to their use?
- Are you interested in trying a particular treatment first? Are you against trying any particular type of therapy? If so, what caused you to make this judgment?
- To what degree do you wish to proceed in determining the cause of your erectile dysfunction? How important is this information to you?
Last Reviewed 11/17/2017
Stephen W Leslie, MD, FACS
Bradley Fields Schwartz, DO, FACS
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