Erectile Dysfunction Diagnosis

How is ED diagnosed?

Patient History

Medical and sexual histories help define the degree and nature of ED. A medical history can disclose diseases that lead to ED, while a simple recounting of sexual activity might distinguish among problems with sexual desire, erection, ejaculation, or orgasm.

Using certain prescription or illegal drugs can suggest a chemical cause, since drug effects account for 25% of ED cases. Cutting back on or substituting certain medications can often alleviate the problem.

Physical Examination

A physical examination can give clues to systemic problems. For example, if the penis is not sensitive to touching, a problem in the nervous system may be the cause. Abnormal secondary sex characteristics, such as hair pattern or breast enlargement, can point to hormonal problems, which would mean that the endocrine system is involved. The examiner might discover a circulatory problem by observing decreased pulses in the wrist or ankles. And unusual characteristics of the penis itself could suggest the source of the problemfor example, a penis that bends or curves when erect could be the result of Peyronie's disease.

Laboratory Tests

Several laboratory tests can help diagnose ED. Tests for systemic diseases include blood counts, urinalysis, lipid profile, and measurements of creatinine and liver enzymes. Measuring the amount of free testosterone in the blood can yield information about problems with the endocrine system and is indicated especially in patients with decreased sexual desire.

Other Tests

Monitoring erections that occur during sleep (nocturnal penile tumescence) can help rule out certain psychological causes of ED. Healthy men have involuntary erections during sleep. If nocturnal erections do not occur, then ED is likely to have a physical rather than psychological cause. Tests of nocturnal erections are not completely reliable, however. Scientists have not standardized such tests and have not determined when they should be applied for best results.

Psychosocial Examination

A psychosocial examination, using an interview and a questionnaire, reveals psychological factors. A man's sexual partner may also be interviewed to determine expectations and perceptions during sexual intercourse.

Reviewed by Jason C. Baker, M.D. 7/12

Last Modified Date: June 11, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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Jamis Roszler
Janis Roszler
MSFT, RD, CDE, LDN

Janis Roszler, MSFT, RD, CDE, LD/N is the American Association of Diabetes Educators' 2008-2009 Diabetes Educator of the Year.  She is a certified diabetes educator, marriage and family therapist, and registered dietitian. Her books include Sex and Diabetes (ADA) Diabetes on your OWN Terms (Marlowe & Co) and The Secrets of Living and Loving with Diabetes (Surrey books).
 

Donna Rice
Donna Rice
MSW, BSN, RN, CDE

Donna Rice MBA,RN,CDE,FAADE is the 2007 Past President of the American Association of Diabetes Educators. She is a registered nurse, diabetes educator and has developed numerous educational programs on sexual health and wellness.  She is the co-author of  Sex and Diabetes (ADA) and Diabetes and Erectile Dysfunction - A Quick ‘n' Easy Handbook For the Diabetes Educator (Bella Vita).  Her newest publication is a children's book, The Magic is Me (Searchlight Press).