How Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is diagnosed

Erectile dysfunction or ED, also called impotence, isn’t something to be embarrassed about, but you do need an accurate diagnosis before you can be treated.

ED isn’t an uncommon occurrence.  At some point, most men will experience difficulty getting or maintaining an erection long enough to enjoy intercourse.  But if you experience ED on more than 25 percent of the occasions when you try to have intercourse, there may be a medical reason.

Possible causes of ED…

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

  • Heart problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Depression
  • Nerve damage or injury
  • Thyroid problems
  • Neurological condition or injury
  • Stroke
  • Poor circulation
  • Low testosterone levels (Hypogonadism)
  • Problems with the kidneys or liver
  • Diabetes

There are many other reasons why erectile dysfunction can occur, including fears or anxieties about sex, substance abuse, and relationship problems.  But 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 ED 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 your 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 ED, and can be dealt with through therapy and counselling.

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 ED.  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 a 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 ED be treated, so can any health problem that’s causing it, and do it now before the problem gets more serious.

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