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Talking with Your Doctor About ED

Wednesday 24 June 2020
Erectile Dysfunction

Table of Contents


I. What Causes Erectile Dysfunction

a. How does an Erection Happen?

b. Physical Causes of ED

c. Psychological Causes of ED

II. Why You Should See A Doctor About ED

a. ED Treatments

b. Serious Health Conditions

III. Talking to Your Doctor

a. How to Tell Your Doctor

b. What to Tell Your Doctor


What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a condition that prevents a patient from being able to get or maintain an erection that is firm enough for sexual intercourse. ED is usually a result of physical or psychological causes and affects around 30 million Americans. [1] Erectile dysfunction may also be called impotence. This condition can occur at any age, but it becomes more common as men get older. Luckily, there are medications like Viagra (sildenafil) to help combat ED symptoms.

a. How does an Erection Happen?

Erections are caused when a male becomes sexually excited by stimulation to the penis or by sexual thoughts. Once this occurs, the brain sends a message to the penis causing the muscles in the penis to relax. This allows more blood to flow into the penis, filling two chambers and making the penis larger and firmer. Once the chambers are full, blood vessels close off so that the erection is maintained throughout sexual intercourse. [2]

b. Physical Causes of ED

Erectile dysfunction is more likely to be caused by a physical problem as men get older. For men aged 50 and above, 90 percent of ED cases are a result of a physical problem. This is because as men age, they are more likely to have a physical condition that can cause ED. Common physical causes include high blood pressure, heart conditions, and diabetes. [3] 

A caricature of a man clutching his heart

c. Psychological Causes of ED

Erectile dysfunction may also be a result of a psychological cause, especially for younger men. Around nine out of ten teenagers and young male adults suffer from psychological ED at least once. [4] Psychological erectile dysfunction is often a result of stress, depression, or sexual anxiety.

Keep reading to learn about the importance of speaking to a doctor about ED and what happens during a doctor’s appointment.

Why You Should See A Doctor About ED

If erection failure happens less than 20 percent of the time, then it typically does not require treatment. However, if it occurs more frequently than this, then talk to your doctor. As previously mentioned, ED is typically caused by physical or psychological causes and your doctor can help to diagnose the cause. Once the cause has been diagnosed, your doctor can help to treat the condition.

a. ED Treatments

Erectile dysfunction is common amongst men and can be easily treated with prescription medications. Popular ED medications include Viagra (sildenafil), Cialis (tadalafil), and Levitra (vardenafil).

As these medications all require a prescription, it is important to visit your doctor so that erectile dysfunction can be treated. For psychological ED, doctors may prescribe medications and can advise ways to lower stress and anxiety, or they can recommend licensed mental health professionals to help.

b. Serious Health Conditions

Another important reason to speak to a doctor about ED is that it may be caused by a health condition that you are unaware of. Erectile dysfunction is a result of heart disease, but it can also be an early warning sign of a future heart problem. Heart problems and erectile dysfunction share many of the same risk factors, including high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, and alcohol. A build-up of plaque in the arteries can result in both conditions. [5]

As well as heart disease, erectile dysfunction may also be a sign that other conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes are not being managed properly. Talking to your doctor about ED may result in improving erections and getting a better treatment program for your underlying health conditions.

A cigarette butt with more cigarettes on the edge of an ashtray

Talking to Your Doctor

It is important to not allow embarrassment to get in the way of speaking to a doctor about erectile dysfunction. Not only can it help treat ED, but it may also help with other health conditions.

a. How to Tell Your Doctor

Some people may be embarrassed talking about erectile dysfunction. It can take courage to bring this up with someone that you are not familiar with. It may help to practice what you are going to say. You might want to use one of these examples:

  • “I think I have erectile dysfunction.”
  • “I’ve been having some problems getting an erection.”
  • “I want to talk about a private issue.”
  • “I’m having problems in the bedroom.”

Erectile dysfunction is a common condition and doctors are used to helping patients, so there is no need to feel embarrassed about this conversation. Practicing can help you if you think you may be anxious about this conversation. Once you start this talk, your doctor should be able to take control of the conversation.

If you are uncomfortable talking about erectile dysfunction with your family doctor, you can ask to be referred to a urologist. These doctors are specially trained to treat conditions involving the urinary tract and reproductive system. [6]

A stethoscope, pen and sheet of patient information

b. What to Tell Your Doctor

It is important that you are honest with your doctor and tell them as much information as possible. This can include how long ED has been occurring, how frequently it occurs, and whether the problem is gaining or maintaining an erection. This can help your doctor diagnose the underlying cause of the condition. [5]

Other helpful information that you can prepare includes information about any other health conditions that you have and a list of any other medications that you take.

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.