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Discussing Erectile Dysfunction with Your Doctor

Discussing Erectile Dysfunction with Your DoctorGordon hadn’t been able to get a good erection in six months and was feeling edgy. He had hoped the situation was temporary. He was 56 and knew that men could develop erection troubles as they got older. But were the changes always this dramatic? Was this the new normal? Would he ever get a firm erection again?

The problem was taking its toll on his girlfriend Kathy, too. She said it was okay and that she understood, but he knew better. They had been together for five years and had always had an active sex life. He knew what she liked in bed and hated to disappoint her. She questioned whether he was still attracted to her and asked if he was seeing someone else. But that wasn’t the case. Far from it.

It was Kathy who suggested he see a doctor. Now he was in the waiting room, wondering what he was going to say. Admitting that he couldn’t perform made him feel like less of a man. He was nervous to find out the cause. And he had no idea what treatment would be like.


Discussing ED with your doctor might not be easy, but it's important. This can make it easier. (Click to tweet)


There are lots of men like Gordon. And it’s okay to feel anxious about discussing erectile dysfunction (ED) with a doctor. But it’s important to do so. Today, we’ll explain why you should and offer some tips for the conversation.


Why should men talk to their doctor about ED?

There are several good reasons:

·         ED can be a sign of a larger medical issue. ED is common in men with heart disease and diabetes. It can also happen to men with high blood pressure or kidney disease. Often, it’s the first sign that something else is wrong. The good news is that treating these conditions can usually alleviate the ED. Plus, taking care of yourself now can improve your overall health for years to come.

·         ED can affect a man’s mental health. As we saw with Gordon, ED can damage a man’s self-esteem. For many men, part of their identity is connected with their ability to perform sexually. Being unable to do so can lead to a lack of confidence and anxiety in new sexual situations. Depression – and sadness over the loss of intimacy – are common, too.

·         ED can be treated. Most men with ED have lots of options. Medications like Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis have been popular for many years now. But not all men can take this class of drugs, particularly men who take nitrates for heart conditions. If you can’t take pills for ED (or if they don’t work for you), there are other treatments to consider. Some men try self-injections, suppositories, and vacuum devices. More serious cases might be treated with surgery or penile implants. Sex therapy may also be helpful.

Keep in mind that medications for ED are available only by prescription and are not appropriate for every man. You should always be checked out by a doctor before starting them. It may be tempting to order them online and avoid seeing the doctor, but this is a dangerous practice.

It’s possible that you won’t need formal treatment at all. Sometimes, ED can be managed through lifestyle changes. For example, if your ED is caused by diabetes, changing your diet to keep your blood sugar under control may do the trick. Some men’s erections improve when they get more exercise.


Talking to the Doctor

Once you’ve decided to see your doctor about ED, how do you start the conversation? Here are some steps to consider.

·         Think over your questions beforehand. It may help to write them down and take them with you, so you don’t forget anything. Partners may think of questions that haven’t occurred to you. This list of questions (PDF) can get you started. Remember that no question is foolish. If it matters to you, be sure to ask.

·         Try not to feel anxious. While you may feel awkward, remember that ED is common and chances are, your doctor has treated it before. If not, he or she can refer you to a specialist. You might say, “You know, I feel a little embarrassed about this, but lately I’ve been having trouble with erections.” Most likely, your doctor will try to put you at ease and ask questions to guide the discussion.

·         Consider bringing your partner. If you are in a relationship, you might bring your partner to the appointment with you. He or she can be a second set of ears if there is a lot of information to process. And since ED affects partners, too, he or she can provide some perspective.

·         Follow up. Don’t hesitate to call the doctor if you have questions or concerns later on.

When you leave the appointment, pat yourself on the back. You’ve taken a huge step forward for your overall health, for your sex life, and for your relationship.

Print this article or view it as a PDF file here: Discussing Erectile Dysfunction with Your Doctor


Men’s Journal

Kubota, Taylor

“Everything You Need to Know about Erectile Dysfunction Drugs”

Sexual Medicine Society of North America

“Causes of ED/Talking with a Healthcare Provider”

(March 27, 2013)

“Questions to Ask Your Healthcare Provider About Erectile Dysfunction (ED)”


“Discussing Erectile Dysfunction With Your Doctor”

(Reviewed: October 4, 2014)