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How is Erectile Dysfunction Diagnosed?

  • Friday 6 August 2021
  • 5 minute(s) read

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Every man may experience erectile dysfunction from time to time. This is not the end of the world. ED is not necessarily cause for concern if it occurs periodically, but some men experience ED symptoms every time they have sex. There are several causes of ED, and it may take multiple diagnostic tests before the root cause is identified.

For some, a physical exam and questions about your medical history are all that are needed to diagnose ED. But you may need further tests or a consultation with a specialist if you have an underlying condition or chronic health issue.

Once your doctor has made a proper diagnosis, you may be prescribed erectile dysfunction pills. Lifestyle changes may also be necessary for improving symptoms of erectile dysfunction. 1 Read on to learn more about diagnosis techniques that you may experience when visiting your doctor about ED. 

a man and woman sleeping in a bed

Physical & Mental Health Exam

Your doctor consults hundreds of men a year about their erectile dysfunction. It is important to remember that tidbit of information whenever you feel nervous about discussing your sex life with a health professional. They will likely ask you personal questions to determine if any psychological or emotional issues are causing your ED.

If there are any physical issues with the penis, it can affect your sex life significantly. The first step of the physical exam can be a little awkward but 100 percent necessary. Your doctor will likely check:

  • The sensitivity of your penis. If it lacks sensitivity, a nerve problem may be present.
  • Your blood pressure
  • If your penis has a bend or curve when erect.
  • If you have extra hair or breast enlargement, signifying a possible hormone problem.
  • Your pulse to make sure you have good circulation. 2  

Blood Test

If your doctor determines that there is no physical or psychological reason behind your ED, they will take a blood test. Several different health conditions can influence the development of ED. These conditions include diabetes, atherosclerosis, chronic kidney disease, and hormonal problems.

If your diabetes condition is not well-controlled, the excess blood sugar in the body can affect your nerves and arteries. The arteries may narrow over time and reduce blood flow. 2 The same thing occurs with atherosclerosis when plaque builds up in the blood vessels and limits blood flow. 

It is essential to remain transparent with your doctor. Your doctor just wants to help you feel better, so if you are taking steroids for bodybuilding or something similar, let your doctor know. They will likely advise you to stop. Other hormonal issues can include increased prolactin levels in the system and too little or too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism/hypothyroidism). 3

a woman next to an ultrasound machine

Imaging Tests

After the above tests, your doctor may have a pretty good idea of what’s causing your ED. If you have diabetes or atherosclerosis, your doctor may call for an imaging test to check for blood flow in the penis.

A Doppler ultrasound can be done in a doctor’s office or an outpatient center. The doctor will put an ultrasound on the penis to see if blood is moving through the penis. Color images on a computer screen will show the speed and direction of blood through a blood vessel. 3

Nocturnal Erection Test

Alternative tests like a nocturnal erection test (or penile tumescence test) may be necessary if your doctor cannot determine your ED's exact cause. It involves wearing a plastic ring-like device around the penis to see if you experience nocturnal erections while you sleep. Another version of the test uses an electronic monitoring device that records how firm the erections are, how many you have in a night, and how long they last.

Normally, men have around three to five erections a night. If you wake up in the morning and results show that you did achieve an erection, your doctor can eliminate the physical causes behind your ED. These tests may be performed at home or in a sleep lab, but a specialist can explain the results to you.

If you did not experience an erection during the night, your ED might be due to physical symptoms that need to be examined further with more blood tests. 3

an empty needle and sample tube

Injection Test

Penile injections, also known as corpus cavernosa injections, are used to diagnose and treat ED. This treatment is usually used as a last resort because it is invasive and generally uncomfortable. Doctors use it to determine if there is an underlying reason for problems getting or sustaining an erection firm enough for penetrative sex.

These injections are going to be done by your doctor, and a fine needle will be inserted. Men may feel a small pinch, but it is not a painful experience. Once the penis becomes erect, your doctor will examine it and look for curvature or areas with dents or other deformities.

If you do not get an erection during the test, there are blood flow problems. You will likely be kept in the doctor's office until the erection subsides. These are some of the most common diagnostic techniques, and your doctor will let you know which one is right for you. Once you receive a proper diagnosis, your doctor can prescribe ED treatment if necessary. For more information, read our blog about erectile dysfunction today.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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