9 Things Your Doctor Wants You to Know About Erectile Dysfunction

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Paige Greenfield Fowler on September 17, 2020
  • doctor examining male patient's hands
    From the Experts
    Many men have misconceptions about erectile dysfunction (ED) and its causes, symptoms and treatments. So we checked in with the experts to find out what you need to know about this common condition. Learn what these experts had to say. Then contact your doctor if you think you may have ED or you have questions about what you’ve read.
  • Relationship problems
    1. “All men experience ED occasionally.”
    Just about every man has had the experience of not being able to maintain an erection long enough to have sex. The occasional letdown is a bummer, but it’s normal. Stress, lack of sleep, and excess drinking can affect your ability to achieve or maintain an erection. “If you’re failing 50% of the time or more, you could have ED and should see a doctor,” says urologist Larry Lipshultz, MD.
  • Medical exam
    2. “ED is serious.”
    “Blood vessels in the penis are smaller and start to narrow long before those in your heart or brain,” says urologist Darius Paduch, MD, PhD. For that reason, ED can be one of the first signs of a more serious health problem, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease. So don’t delay making an appointment. Your doctor can determine whether your ED is due to a health condition or another cause.
  • Smiling multi ethnic men
    3. “ED isn’t the same for everyone.”
    Some men incorrectly think that because they can get firm, they don’t have ED. “If you can get a firm erection, but you lose it too quickly, you could have ED,” says Kevin Billups, MD. “You could also have ED if you can penetrate but then lose your erection, or if you have a very soft erection.” If you notice any changes in your ability to get or stay firm, discuss them with your doctor.
  • Two blister packs of viagra
    4. “Viagra isn’t the only treatment.”
    When you experience ED, a trip to your doctor won’t always end with a prescription for sildenafil (Viagra) or another similar medication. “Your doctor will look for other causes of ED,” Dr. Lipshultz says. “Treating the underlying issue, such as stabilizing your blood sugar if you have diabetes, can improve your ED.” Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and stopping smoking, can also help.
  • Medication consultation
    5. “Don’t self-treat.”
    “Don’t take an ED medication before checking with your doctor,” says Dr. Billups. ED medications can interact with other medications and cause dangerous side effects, such as low blood pressure. The same goes for supplements that claim to enhance male performance. These supplements may contain potentially harmful ingredients that aren’t listed on the label. And any supplement can cause drug interactions and side effects. Always talk to your doctor first.
  • Man sleeping in bed
    6. “Tell your doctor about your sleep habits.”
    “Sleep issues are often overlooked, but they can cause ED,” Dr. Billups says. Obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, and other sleep disorders can alter your hormones, contribute to increased abdominal fat, and lead to ED. Addressing an underlying sleep problem can improve your sexual function. And everyone can benefit from practicing good sleep hygiene—maintain a regular sleep and wake pattern, limit caffeine and alcohol, and wind down before bed.
  • Satisfied senior man
    7. “ED isn’t a natural part of aging.”
    ED does become more common as men age, but it is not inevitable. Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you should expect to go soft. “ED is more about your health and lifestyle than your age,” Dr. Paduch says. And ED is treatable at any age. So don’t let your age discourage you from seeking help from your doctor.
  • Business patient
    8. “ED and depression have a complicated relationship.”
    If you feel depressed, talk with your doctor about your symptoms right away. “Depression can increase your risk of ED, and ED can lead to depression,” explains Dr. Billups. And certain antidepressants that treat depression can cause ED or other sexual problems. Call your doctor if you experience sexual problems while taking an antidepressant. Continue taking your medication and don’t stop it unless your doctor tells you to do so. Suddenly stopping some antidepressants can be dangerous.
  • Runner doing stretching exercise
    9. “You can prevent ED.”
    “Anything that’s good for your heart health is good for your penis,” Dr. Paduch says. Eating a diet low in saturated fat, exercising for 150 minutes or more per week, managing stress levels, and not smoking can keep your heart healthy—and your erections firm. Talk with your doctor before starting an exercise program to find one that is safe for you. Your doctor can also help with tips on improving other lifestyle habits.
9 Things Your Doctor Wants You to Know About Erectile Dysfunction
  1. Erectile Dysfunction. National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/KUDiseases/pubs/ED/index.aspx#cause
  2. Hidden Risks of Erectile Dysfunction ‘Treatments’ Sold Online. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm048386.htm
  3. Sleep Hygiene. National Sleep Foundation. http://sleepfoundation.org/ask-the-expert/sleep-hygiene
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Last Review Date: 2020 Sep 17
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.