Diagnosing Erectile Dysfunction

Finding the cause of your ED will help your health care provider find the best treatment choices for you. Most health care providers will ask you about your general health and the history of your erection problem. Your health care provider may also give you a physical exam and order lab tests.


Health and ED History

Your doctor will ask you questions about your health and lifestyle. For example, certain medicines may be helping to cause your ED. Also, smoking or alcohol use can affect erections. Being open with your health providers will allow them to find the best treatment choices for you. It’s important to discuss different things that you can do to improve your condition and your health.

What Questions Might My Health Care Provider Ask?

Questions About Health Problems

It’s hard to know. Health providers now realize that most men have an underlying physical cause of ED, and that often both physical and psychological factors will affect ED. It is impossible to prove that there is no psychological part to a man’s ED.

Some questions you may be asked are:

  • What health problems do you have?
  • What medicines do you take?
  • Do you smoke, drink, or use other drugs? If so, how much?
  • Do you have any prior history of surgery or radiation therapy, especially in the pelvic area?
  • Do you have urinary problems?
Questions About ED

Asking questions about your history of ED can help your health care provider narrow the cause for your ED.  These can stem from lack of sexual desire, or inability to achieve an erection, ejaculation, or orgasm (climax).  Some of these questions can be personal and may seem embarrassing. They are however important and crucial to getting an accurate assessment of the cause for your ED, which can lead to an effective treatment plan.

Some questions about your ED that you may be asked are:

  • How long have you had these symptoms? Did they start slowly or all at once?
  • Do you wake up in the morning with an erection? Do you wake up during the night with an erection?
  • If you do have erections, how firm are they? Is penetration difficult?
  • Do your erections change at different times such as when entering a partner, during stimulation by mouth or with masturbation?
  • Do you have problems with sex drive, arousal, ejaculation, or orgasm (climax)?
  • How is this problem affecting your enjoyment of sex?
  • What effect is this problem having on your relationship (if you are in one)?
Questions About Stress and Emotional Health

Your health care provider may ask you questions about feelings such as depression or worry. He or she may also ask about problems in your relationship with a partner. Some health care providers may ask if it is okay to talk to your sex partner, also.

Some questions you may be asked about your emotional health are:

  • How is your relationship with your partner? Has anything changed lately?
  • How satisfied are you with your sex life? Has anything changed lately?
  • Are you under a lot of stress most of the time? Or has anything especially upsetting happened to you?
  • Do you have any mental illnesses or depression? Are you taking any meds for depression or anxiety?
  • Physical Exam

    A physical exam checks overall health. This may involve checking your blood pressure, penis and testicles. You may need to have a rectal exam to check your prostate. These tests are not painful and may give useful information about the cause of your ED. Most patients do not need a lot of testing before starting treatment.

  • Lab Tests

    To test for diseases that cause ED, your health care provider may order blood tests and collect a urine sample.

  • Other Tests

    Erectile Function Tests:

    Your health care provider will test to see how the blood vessels, nerves, muscles and other tissues of your penis and pelvic area are working. Normal nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT), or healthy automatic erections during sleep, shows that your nerves and blood supply are working properly.


    A duplex ultrasound shows what’s happening inside your body by bouncing sound waves off an organ to form pictures on a monitor. It checks for blood flow, vein leaks, scars on erectile tissue and some signs of clogged arteries. If you take this test, you may be given an injection into your penis to cause an erection. The technician can then see how the blood flow and pressure changes in your penis, as well as how it expands. These images are compared to images of the limp penis.