Discussing Erectile Dysfunction With Your Doctor

Medically Reviewed by Carmelita Swiner, MD on November 12, 2022
4 min read

If it's temporary and only happens occasionally, problems getting or keeping an erection aren’t cause for concern. There could be any number of reasons. It could be fatigue, stress, drinking alcohol, or even side effects of a medicine you just started taking.

But some men have a more frequent, longer lasting problem called erectile dysfunction (ED).

It’s more common in older men, but aging isn’t the cause. In nearly 75% of ED cases, there’s a physical cause. That means it’s time to see your doctor.

There are three main reasons you shouldn’t try to deal with erectile dysfunction on your own:

It can be treated: Sometimes, it’s as simple as taking a pill your doctor prescribes. There are drugs just for ED. Other options your doctor can help you explore include:

  • Injections
  • Suppositories
  • Surgical penile implants
  • Special devices, like vacuum pumps, which boost blood flow to the penis

It can be linked to more serious health conditions like:

  • High blood pressure
  • Hardening of the arteries
  • Diabetes

It can also be linked to other medical treatments, such as:

If your doctor can find the cause, treating that may also help you in the bedroom.

If stress, anxiety, or depression is causing it, your doctor can help you find a licensed mental health professional to talk with.

The first thing to do is to make an appointment. If you don't want to tell the receptionist why you’re coming in, just say you want to talk to the doctor about a male health problem.

Next, make a list of information your doctor will want. It should include:

  • All medications you take, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs, herbal remedies, supplements, and vitamins.
  • Facts about your symptoms. When did they start? Did they come on slow or fast? Does it happen every time you want to have sex? Is it random? Is it only under certain circumstances?
  • Key personal information. Are you going through a stressful time? Have there been any major changes at home or work?
  • Are you drinking heavily, or using cocaine, cigarettes, or opioids?

Think about asking your partner to come along. Your partner can fill in details that you may forget or may not have thought of.

You’ll want answers to these questions before you leave:

  • What’s causing my ED?
  • Are my symptoms long-term or temporary?
  • Can my ED be treated?
  • What are the treatment options?
  • What if they don't work?
  • Will I need to see a specialist?
  • What will my insurance cover?
  • Can I make lifestyle changes that will help?
  • Where can I get more information?

Worried about discussing your problem? The best approach is just to say, "I think I may have ED." It's unlikely your doctor will feel uncomfortable.

If they have trouble talking about sexual issues with you, ask them to refer you to a urologist.

The doctor will start by asking about your medical history. They’ll do this to learn more about your symptoms, conditions, and what medicines you’re taking.

The questions may seem personal. But it's important to answer them fully and honestly. The doctor needs this information to know how to treat you.

The questions may include:

  • Do you ever get an erection?
  • If you do, is it firm enough to have sex?
  • If you do start to have sex, do you then lose the erection? Does it ever come back?
  • Can you get an erection by masturbation?
  • Do you ever wake up with an erection?

The doctor will ask if you smoke, how much alcohol you drink, and whether or not you use recreational drugs. Then they’ll do a physical exam. This will include your penis and prostate. The doctor may also do blood and other lab tests to check for things like diabetes or heart disease.

If you need more tests, they may send you to an urologist. When you see the urologist, ask the same questions you asked your doctor. Expect them to ask questions close to the ones your doctor asked you.

The urologist will ask what happens when you have sex. This will help them know where to start. They’ll use your answers to track your progress.

They’ll ask more questions about your health and give you a physical exam. You may have to have more blood work or an ultrasound.

It may feel awkward at first to talk with your doctor about ED. But starting the conversation is well worth it.