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Erectile Dysfunction as Warning Sign

Impotence isn't a deadly disease, but it can signal other deadly health problems.

Lifetime Piling Up

Erectile dysfunction seems to have become the proverbial canary in a coal mine, especially for older men. That's because it can be caused by any combination of various health problems that strike men later in life.

Men who might not otherwise be diagnosed with something potentially fatal may become aware of the problem when they go to the doctor seeking a prescription.

That's one argument doctors may bring up if drug companies ever lobby to make erectile dysfunction drugs available over the counter. Impotence isn't a problem that exists in a vacuum; and although the drugs to treat it appear to be safe for most men, doctors believe they need to keep a close eye on those who are taking them.

Sharlip says he thinks it's dangerous to take your doctor out of the loop by buying Viagra on the Internet, for example. "Internet acquisition of these drugs is the same thing as over-the-counter," he says. "They say there's a physician that's overseeing it, but there's no physician overseeing it very carefully."

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Reviewed on December 22, 2003

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