Healthy Living

How Is Erectile Dysfunction Diagnosed?

How Is Erectile Dysfunction Diagnosed?

Key Takeaways

  • Tests for erectile dysfunction
  • Diagnosis of erectile dysfunction
  • Managing psychological complications

Erectile dysfunction also called as ED in medical terminology, is the inability to get or keep an erection firm enough to have sexual intercourse. In severe cases, it is referred to as impotence. Many men experience it during times of stress, but it can also be the result of underlying health problems, which will need timely treatment.

Erectile dysfunction is a problem that affects many men over a wide range of ages. If it begins to occur frequently and causes sexual dissatisfaction, then it may be time for you to visit a doctor for diagnosis. In many cases, men can be reluctant to go to the doctor and discuss such personal, if any issues, but if the patient himself initiates the discussion, diagnosis and treatment can be started immediately. The doctor can conduct various tests and once the problem is diagnosed, treatment can be started, changes in lifestyle can be advised or he can refer you to a specialist for more specific treatment options. When visiting your doctor, also be sure to share details of any use of alcohol, caffeine, whether you smoke, or use any drugs. Your medical history or problems in personal life are also relevant – the loss of a job, death in the family, or any traumatic events can also play a role.

Sexual, Medical, and Psycho social History to Diagnose Erectile Dysfunction

The first step in the medical management of ED is taking a thorough sexual, medical, and psycho social history of the patient. To best tailor your treatment plan to you, your doctor may ask about your past sexual partners, previous medical procedures you've undergone, any medications that you're taking, and what your relationships are like - romantic or otherwise. These are sensitive and delicate topics, and your doctor should be caring enough to make you comfortable about sharing these intimate details with him. The more open the patient is, the more responsive the doctor will be, giving you the best chances that your treatment will be successful.

The problem may be the condition itself or in some cases it may have occurred due to underlying health issues. There are various tests and procedures carried out in the diagnosis of ED. Listed below are the ways in which ED is diagnosed:

  • Examination of your sexual history
  • Testing for the presence of other medical conditions
  • Carrying out self-tests to measure your sexual functionality
  • Psychological tests 
  • The NPT (Nocturnal Penile Tumescence) test
  • Neurological tests and evaluations
  1. Sexual History Assessment

This is mainly completed through questions that are asked by the doctor in order to analyze the state of your sexual health. Sometimes it may also involve your sexual partner being interviewed about your sexual performance. The information helps in creating a report which will be used to determine the severity of your condition. Physical examination of the penis and the testicles may also be done by the doctor.  He may also check the nerves functioning as well as hair loss to check if there are any hormone problems. The doctor will also ask questions to check on the emotional aspect, to see if any personal problem is troubling the patient's mind.

      2. Testing Underlying Medical Conditions

Sometimes erectile dysfunction may be caused by underlying medical problems that have not been detected yet. The health problems that can be tested for include; hypertension, cardiovascular diseases such as coronary artery disease, tumors in the pituitary glands, and diabetes mellitus.

The tests conducted may include:

If any chronic condition is detected, the doctor may advise that you get it treated first to see if it will also remedy the patient's ED. If you are taking medication that may be causing ED, then he/she may recommend a change in the drugs you are using.

       3. Carrying Out Self Tests

This involves tests that can be carried out at home to analyze how well you function sexually. It can also be done in the privacy of your doctor’s office. The International Index of Erectile Function is the widely used test.

Injection Test

An injection test , also called an intra-cavernosal test, where the doctor injects a medicine into the base of your penis that should give you an erection. If you don’t get one, you may have a problem with blood flow to your penis. The Doppler ultrasound test is another way to check blood flow to the penis. It may be used along with the injection test.

Your doctor takes a device that looks like a wand and holds it over your penis. It uses sound waves to create a video of your blood vessels so your doctor can look at blood flow.

       4. Psychological Tests

This test is usually done to determine if your erection problems may be caused by psychological factors such as stress or anxiety. It is done by a psychologist who analyzes your relationship and sexual life to see if there are problems that may be factors causing ED.

      5. The Nocturnal Penile Tumescence (NPT) Test

During this test, the number of erections a man has during sleep is analyzed. The circumference, stiffness and duration of the erection is also analyzed. A healthy man usually gets an erection around three to five times each night, lasting between half an hour to an hour long.

     6. Neurological Assessment Tests and Evaluation

These are tests done to determine if you may have nerves that have been damaged or are not functioning properly, thus causing erectile dysfunction. The tests may help to see if you also require seeing a neurologist for further treatment.

The Bottom Line

Erectile dysfunction is a condition that requires more than a single test to diagnose its underlying cause. You therefore need to consult with your doctor to see which tests are the most suitable for you. It is also important to involve your partner. If lifestyle changes needs to be adhered to, then avoiding tobacco, alcohol, or drugs is advised. Talking about the issue with your partner and getting counseling will also help in many cases. If you are on medication for health issues, then your doctor can also can suggest changes in your medication if that is the underlying cause for ED.  Where there is a problem, there is always a solution.