Nearly every man at some point has a problem getting or keeping an erection. There could be any number of reasons for it, ranging from fatigue, stress, or even side effects of a new medication. But as long as it’s temporary and only happens occasionally, an erection problem is not generally a cause for concern. Some men, however, especially as they get older, experience a more frequent and longer lasting problem with erection known as erectile dysfunction or ED.
ED refers to a man’s inability to get or keep an erection firm enough for sex. Although ED is more common in older men, aging is not the cause. In nearly 75% of cases of erectile dysfunction there is a physical reason for the erection problem.
Erectile dysfunction is a reason to consult a doctor. Unfortunately, some men are reluctant or embarrassed to discuss sexual matters with their doctor. As a result, they miss an opportunity to get the help that could resolve their problem with ED, or even worse, miss the opportunity to discover and address a potentially serious health issue that may be causing ED. If you are a man experiencing ED, here is information to help you talk about erectile dysfunction with your doctor.
Why You Should See a Doctor About Erectile Dysfunction
There are two main reasons you should consult your doctor about erectile dysfunction. The first is ED can be treated. ED affects you and your partner, and it can put a strain on your relationship. It can cause you to doubt yourself and lower your self-esteem. It can also cause partners of men with ED to question their own sexual desirability.
There are drugs that specifically address ED, and finding a solution can be as simple as taking a pill your doctor prescribes. But even if your erection problem is not resolved with oral medication, there are other options that your doctor can help you explore, including injections, suppositories, surgical penile implants, and special devices, such as a vacuum pump, which increases the flow of blood into the penis.
But an equally important reason for talking with your doctor about ED is that it can be related to more serious health conditions such as high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, or diabetes. It could also be related to medication you’re taking. ED may also be the result of prostate surgery or other treatments, such as radiation therapy for cancer.
Telling the doctor about your ED may be the first indication that something is wrong. Once an underlying condition is identified, treating it may also resolve the problem with erections.
If there is a psychological cause of ED, the doctor can help you find a professional to address psychological issues.
Getting Ready to See a Doctor About ED
The first thing to keep in mind is there is no reason to be anxious about talking about erection problems with your doctor. ED is a common male health issue, and doctors routinely treat men for erectile dysfunction. The first thing to do is to make an appointment. If you don’t want to tell the receptionist at the appointment desk about why you want to come in, you can say you want to talk to the doctor about a male health issue.
The next thing to do is to make a list of information the doctor will want when he talks to you. The list should include:
- All medications that you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, supplements, and vitamins.
- Relevant facts about your ED symptoms. For instance, when did symptoms begin? Did it come on gradually or was it sudden? Does it happen every time you want to have sex or does it occur randomly or only under certain circumstances?
- Key personal information. For instance, have there been recent stresses in your life? Have there been any major changes, such as losing a job or getting a new one, moving, or a change in responsibility either at home or at work?
- Questions you want to ask the doctor. See the next section for a list of questions to ask.
Consider asking your partner to come along with you to see the doctor. Your partner can help by filling in information that you may forget or may not have thought of. Your partner can also ask questions to clarify what the doctor means and help you remember later what the doctor says. But most important is that the doctor can help your partner understand what erectile dysfunction is, which can help you reassure your partner that you still want an intimate relationship.
Questions to Ask the Doctor About Erectile Dysfunction
Here are questions you should ask the doctor about erectile dysfunction:
- What could be causing my problem with erections?
- Are my symptoms likely to be chronic or only temporary?
- Can my ED be treated?
- What are the treatment options?
- What if the treatments don’t work?
- Will I need to see a specialist?
- Will my insurance cover the treatment and medications?
- Are there any lifestyle changes I can make that will help?
- Do you have any printed information I can read to learn more, or are there reliable web sites where I can get more information?
What Will Happen at the Doctor’s Office?
Some men are afraid to bring the subject of ED up once they’re in the doctor’s office. The best approach is to be straight forward and simply say, “I think I may have ED.” It’s very unlikely that your doctor is going to be shocked or embarrassed by that. If, however, it does appear as the conversation proceeds that your doctor isn’t comfortable talking about sexual issues with you, ask if the doctor can refer you to a urologist.
The doctor will start by asking about your medical history to learn more about your symptoms, medical conditions, and medication use. Many of the questions may seem extremely personal. But it’s important to answer them fully and honestly. The doctor will need the information in order to know how to approach treating you. The questions may include:
- Do you ever get an erection?
- If you do, is it firm enough to have intercourse?
- If you do start intercourse, do you then lose the erection? Does it ever come back?
- Can you get an erection by masturbation?
- Do you ever wake from sleep with an erection?
The doctor will want to know whether you smoke, how much alcohol you drink, and whether or not you use recreational drugs. All of this information is essential for identifying or ruling out factors that can be contributing to the ED.The doctor will also do a physical exam, including examining your penis and prostate. The exam may include blood tests and other lab tests to check for potential medical problems such as diabetes or heart disease that could be related to ED.
If further tests or exams are necessary, the doctor may refer you to a urologist. When you see the urologist, ask the same questions you asked your own doctor, and you should expect the urologist to ask questions very similar to the ones your doctor asked.
Most urologists will have you complete a confidential sexual questionnaire, which will focus in on sexual functioning. This will provide the urologist with information as to where the ED investigation should lead. The questionnaire will be reviewed by you and the urologist, and also track your progress and outcomes, as well. You will be asked questions about your health and undergo a physical exam. Based on the exam findings, you may have to undergo further studies, such as blood work, an ultrasound, or sleep studies, for example.
What Will Happen at the Doctor’s Office? continued…
It may feel awkward at first to talk with your doctor about erectile dysfunction. But because there are effective treatments available, many of them simple, starting the conversation is well worth doing. Once you do, chances are very good you’ll be glad you did. Also, don’t forget that ED may be an early indication of significant, underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, or vascular disease, for example. So, it is important that your doctor considers other potential medical conditions that can cause or contribute to ED.