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Sexual dysfunction


How Erectile Dysfunction Is Diagnosed

How Erectile Dysfunction Is Diagnosed
Impotence isn't always to blame. Before you reach for an ED pill, find out if something else could be causing your erectile problems.
Erectile dysfunction isn't an uncommon occurrence. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 5 percent of men older than 40 (and up to 25 percent of men older than 65) live with ED. In fact, most men will experience difficulty maintaining an erection long enough to enjoy intercourse at least some point in their lives.

But if you’re experiencing erectile dysfunction again and again (more than 25 percent of the times you try to have intercourse), there could be a medical problem to blame.

Possible Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction, or ED, can be caused by a number of serious health conditions, including:

Heart problems
High blood pressure
Nerve damage or injury
Thyroid problems
Neurological condition or injury
Poor circulation
Low testosterone levels (hypogonadism)
Problems with the kidneys or liver
There are many other reasons why erectile dysfunction can occur, including fears or anxieties about sex, substance abuse, and relationship problems. Sleep disorders may also play a role: According to a recent study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, men considered at high risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to be diagnosed with erectile dysfunction.

If a physical condition or abnormality is the cause, it's important to get a medical diagnosis and treatment before even more serious symptoms occur.

How a Medical Diagnosis Is Made

Your doctor will start by out taking a medical history and asking a number of questions to determine if your erectile dysfunction is caused by a serious medical problem or by lifestyle issues. Questions will likely be about:

Alcohol and drug use
Prescription medications you've recently taken
Recent surgeries
Your history of erections and impotence
Difficulty urinating
Other steps leading to the right diagnosis may include:

A discussion about your emotional health. Your emotional health can play a big role when it comes to sexual function, so your doctor will evaluate whether psychological or emotional issues may be interfering with ability to have or maintain erections. Be honest with your doctor about any problems with your partner, fears, anxieties, or personal stressors that you're experiencing. They could be the reason for your erectile dysfunction, and can be dealt with through therapy and counseling.

The physical exam. The next step will usually involve a careful look at the penis and a rectal exam. A physical also includes a check of your circulation to see if problems with blood flow are affecting your erections. There will also be a neurological exam to see if you have any issues with your nerves or spinal cord, or conditions like Parkinson's disease.

Diagnostic tests. Your doctor will need to run a number of different tests to diagnose or rule out health conditions that may be causing your erectile dysfunction. Your blood pressure will be checked, and a urine sample will be tested to look for any problems with your urinary tract. An ultrasound of the penis may also be performed to check for circulatory problems. A blood sample could be drawn for a complete blood count and metabolic panel, which can help to identify problems with the kidneys and the liver. Your hormone levels — thyroid, for example — may be tested, as well as the levels of prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, to diagnose problems of the prostate.

If you notice more than just the occasional instance of erectile dysfunction, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Not only can your erectile dysfunction be treated, so can any health problem that's causing it … before the problem gets more serious.