Erectile dysfunction: visiting your doctor
When you visit a doctor to ask about erectile dysfunction, also known as ED or impotence, you should try not to be embarrassed. Having problems with your erection is not a reflection of your manhood: ED is a medical condition and your doctor will treat it as such.
To evaluate erection problems, your doctor will usually take a medical history and conduct a physical examination to check for any underlying conditions.
As part of the consultation, your doctor may:
- ask you questions about medical conditions that affect you or your family, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke or vascular disease, kidney failure, or Peyronie’s disease (in which hardened tissue causes the penis to curve at an unusual angle);
- ask if you have had surgery or injuries to the pelvic area;
- ask about any medications that you are taking;
- ask about your lifestyle, such as how much alcohol you drink, whether or not you smoke, and how stressed you may be;
- conduct a rectal examination to check for an enlarged prostate gland;
- check the nerves of the penis to see if there is any damage; and
- order tests such as blood and urine analyses to measure your levels of hormones or cholesterol; or ultrasound and other tests to measure the level of blood flow though the penis.
As well as checking your physical health, your doctor may also ask you about your sexual and emotional health, and may ask about your relationship with your partner.
Based on the information you provide, your doctor will make a diagnosis and make suggestions for treatment that could help.
Last Reviewed: 20 June 2002