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Erectile dysfunction (ED) can be caused by physical problems,
psychological factors, or a combination of both.
The most noticeable symptoms of ED include:
Many men find it difficult to discuss a sexual health problem such as ED. However, it’s important to discuss your ED openly and honestly with your doctor. Various treatment options exist. With help, most men will find a treatment that works for them.
Even when ED doesn’t start with psychological problems, it can cause them. If you have ED, you may want to talk to a mental health professional. A sex therapist can also help you deal with any emotional and relationship problems that may have occurred because of ED. But the best place to start is always your primary care doctor.
Your doctor should be your first stop for ED diagnosis. ED has many potential causes, so you may need a comprehensive physical examination to diagnose it.
The first steps to diagnosing ED are usually straightforward. Then your doctor may refer you to a specialist if more information is needed.
Urologists specialize in urinary and reproductive health. They can help diagnose any abnormalities in your reproductive system.
Your doctor may refer you to a urologist if you don’t have any underlying health or mental conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, or anxiety, but you still have symptoms of ED.
Issues with your prostate gland can cause erectile dysfunction. Your urologist may examine your prostate for conditions that can cause erectile dysfunction, including:
Your urologist may perform a physical exam by taking your blood pressure and examining your penis and testicles. A rectal exam, in which your doctor uses a finger to feel your prostate gland, may be necessary to check the health of your prostate. This test shouldn’t cause you more than minimal discomfort.
Your urologist may also ask about any diuretics you’re taking or about your caffeine and alcohol consumption. These can all cause or contribute to ED. Your urologist may recommend changing a medication that acts as a diuretic (increases urine production) or drinking fewer diuretic liquids (such as coffee) if they may be causing your ED.
Endocrinologists are hormone specialists. Blood tests can help determine whether your hormone levels are abnormal. Low testosterone levels can cause or contribute to ED.
Some hormonal conditions can cause ED, including:
Your doctor may refer you to an endocrinologist if any of the symptoms of these conditions appear alongside symptoms of ED.
Your endocrinologist may give you several additional tests, including:
A mental health professional can help determine if psychological issues are causing or contributing to your ED. A therapist can also help you work through psychological issues during ED treatment.
Your doctor may refer you to a mental health professional if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms in addition to ED symptoms:
Your doctor may also recommend that you see a mental health specialist or therapist if your inability to get an erection is causing tension or stress between you and your partner.
A mental health professional may give you questionnaires to fill out if they believe anxiety, depression, or another mental health condition is causing your ED. These questionnaires allow them to discern whether or not you have all of the indications of a mental disorder. If you have a mental health condition, you may be prescribed medication to control the symptoms. This can also help you to get your ED under control.
A therapist will ask about your personal life and relationships. These questions can help uncover issues in your life that may be causing you stress or interpersonal problems that could be contributing to your ED. They may recommend lifestyle or personal changes that will help address your ED and the mental health issues that may be at the root of it.
To help determine the cause of ED, your doctor may ask about your medical and sexual history. Be prepared to answer these questions honestly. Details about your past may provide important clues to the cause of your ED.
According to the Mayo Clinic, your doctor may ask about:
Be prepared to ask your doctor questions about your ED and its treatment, including:
You can ask both your primary care doctor and a specialist many of these questions. Depending on the cause of your ED, a specialist may be able to give you more specific answers, including how best to treat your ED and how ED is related to any other health conditions you have.
Many effective treatments exist for ED. The first step toward recovery is talking openly with your doctor about your ED to help you pinpoint its root cause.
Some possible treatments include:
Whether it is physical, mental, or both, knowing the issues underlying your ED can allow a specialist to treat the specific cause and symptoms. This may finally end your ED symptoms and allow you to continue living a healthy life, both sexually and personally.
Written by: the Healthline Editorial Team and Tim Jewell
Medically reviewed on: Nov 29, 2016: Deborah Weatherspoon, PhD, MSN, CRNA, COI
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