10 Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Erectile Dysfunction

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

If you have erectile dysfunction (ED), you might be embarrassed to talk to your doctor. But you don’t have to be. Understanding your condition is the key to getting proper treatment. Here are 10 questions you can take to your doctor to help get the discussion started and figure out the best treatment plan for you.

Man with heart problems.

How do I know if my ED is psychological or not?

In the past, it was thought that ED was mainly psychological; however, research has shown the main causes of ED are cardiovascular disease and diabetes. If you and your doctor aren’t sure, you can have a nocturnal erection test, which measures the number of erections you have while asleep. The average number is three to five erections during sleep. If you do have erections during the test, the cause is likely psychological or emotional, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Diabetic man checking his blood glucose level.

What are the physical health conditions that can cause ED?

Some physical health conditions that can lead to ED include type 2 diabetes, heart disease, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, or injuries to the penis. Men who have diabetes are more likely to develop ED than men who do not have diabetes, according to the NIH. Your doctor may complete a physical exam and order laboratory tests when diagnosing ED. The results may indicate an underlying medical condition that should be treated.

Various pills and supplements.

Are there medications that can contribute to ED?

Some medications, such as high blood pressure medications and antidepressants, can interfere with your libido and ability to have and maintain an erection. It is important to let your doctor know all the medication you take, including supplements and over-the-counter drugs, to make sure these are not contributing to your ED. If you are taking these medications, talk with your doctor about the possibility of changing them or adjusting your dosage.

Stethoscope with a chalk heart.

If I have ED, should I consult a cardiologist?

Heart disease and high blood pressure can lead to ED, but they are not the only causes. During diagnosis, your doctor should perform a physical exam and may order laboratory tests. If these indicate underlying medical conditions, such as heart disease, your doctor will refer you to a cardiologist.

Testosterone test vial.

Doesn’t having ED mean I have low testosterone?

Hypogonadism, or low testosterone, is one possible cause of ED, according to Temple University Hospital. However, it is just one possibility, and not every man with ED has low testosterone. Laboratory tests can determine if this is a factor. Ask your doctor if this is something you should be tested for.

Doctor giving a prescription to a patient.

What are the treatment options for ED?

If you have underlying health conditions, treating those might improve symptoms of ED. If medications you are taking could be causing ED, adjusting the dosage or changing medication may help. There are also oral medications that can help ED symptoms, according to the NIH. Other treatments include medication that is injected directly into the penis, penile implants, using a vacuum device, or surgery. If ED is caused by psychological issues, counseling or therapy might help.

Man taking a blue pill from his hand.

How effective are medications for ED?

Around 70 percent of men taking medications for ED say they can have an erection sufficient for intercourse, according to Harvard Health. As with all medications, the results can vary depending on the individual. Some men report that the medication does not work for them. There are a few daily medications, but most of the medications must be taken prior to intercourse. They usually take effect in 15 to 60 minutes. Ask your doctor what might be the most effective for you.

Man with a headache.

What are the side effects of medication for ED?

Ask about the side effects of each of the medication options your doctor suggests. The most common side effects include headache, flushing, upset stomach, nasal congestion, urinary tract infection, vision problems, diarrhea, dizziness, and rash, according to Harvard Health. They can also cause a prolonged erection.

Men doing ball exercises at the gym.

Are there lifestyle changes I should make?

Healthy lifestyle choices may improve ED, according to the NIH, and your doctor can help you figure out what to focus on. Changes include:

  • Quit smoking.
  • Eat a healthy diet with whole-grain foods, low-fat foods, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats.
  • Maintain a healthy weight to lower your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
  • Moderate alcohol use.
  • Be physically active. Exercise increases blood flow, including to the penis.
Gingko supplements.

Are there natural treatments?

One study in 2008 found that red ginseng was more effective than a placebo in treating ED. Other treatments that have been touted include:

  • Ginkgo: One study found it may be helpful if ED is caused by antidepressants.
  • L-arginine: One study found that 92 percent of 40 participants reported achieving a normal erection after 3 months of treatment.

However, none of these are recommended, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Always speak with your doctor before trying natural remedies.

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.