The doctor typically interviews the patient about various physical and psychological factors and performs a physical exam.
The doctor should take a medical and personal history and may ask about the following:
- Past and present medical conditions, surgeries, and medications
- Any history of psychological problems, including stress, anxiety, or depression
- Lifestyle factors such as alcohol, drug, and dietary supplement use
In addition the doctor will ask about the patient's sexual history, which may include:
- When problems with sexual function began
- The frequency, quality, and duration of any erections, including erections that occur during sleep or on awakening in the morning
- The specific circumstances when erectile dysfunction occurs
- Details of sexual technique
- Whether problems exist in the current relationship
If appropriate, the doctor may also interview the sexual partner.
The doctor will perform a physical exam, including examination of the genital area and a digital rectal examination (the doctor inserts a gloved and lubricated finger into the patient's rectum) to check for prostate abnormalities. It is important to check blood pressure and to evaluate circulation by checking pulses in the legs.
In some cases, blood tests may be used to measure testosterone levels to determine if there are hormone problems. The doctor may also screen for thyroid and adrenal gland dysfunction. In addition, the doctor may order tests for blood sugar (glucose) levels to check if diabetes is a factor. For more sophisticated tests, the doctor may refer the patient to a urologist. Because erectile dysfunction and atherosclerosis are often linked, it is important to check cholesterol levels.
Review Date: 07/20/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.