Broaching the Subject of ED

Discussing Erectile Dysfunction with a doctor and preparing for the first appointment

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

Erectile dysfunction (ED) can be a difficult subject for a man to begin to discuss. Characterized by the inability to achieve or maintain an erection for sexual intercourse, the disorder can be one that men are often less than eager to discuss.

“I would be willing to bet that the last topic a man wants to discuss with anyone is his ED,” explained Parviz K. Kavoussi, MD, of Austin Fertility & Reproductive Medicine, in an interview with dailyRx News.

Despite the tendency for men to be tight-lipped about ED, it is a very common condition. According to Dr. Kavoussi, “Men with ED should keep in mind that over 30 million men in the US are diagnosed with ED every year and that is only the men who are coming forward complaining of it, so there are surely more out there.”

And it is only in taking that first step and discussing the disorder with a doctor that action can be taken to figure out the cause of ED in that particular man and to begin treating the condition.

“It is really common and doctors are used to talking to men about it every day, so the sooner a man brings up ED, the sooner he is on the path to treatment and improvement of his and his partner's quality of life,” said Dr. Kavoussi.

Being prepared for that first appointment and knowing what to expect may help men ease into the discussion. So what do you need to know?

Be a Prepared Patient

The Mayo Clinic suggests that you take full advantage of this time with your doctor by thinking about what may be covered before you arrive. “Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared,” says Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Kavoussi recommends you “expect questions about your sexual health and be ready to discuss your overall health as well.”

Sometimes ED can be related to a seemingly separate condition, which is why a doctor will likely want to get an idea about your general health. To this point, the Mayo Clinic recommends, “Write down any symptoms you've had, including any that may seem unrelated to erectile dysfunction.”

Furthermore, you may want to gather a list of other key personal info, including any significant changes that have recently occurred in your life (for example, a job change, a move or a new child) and any element of your life that is a serious source of stress. 

It is also a good idea for you to prepare a list of any prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications or supplements you are taking.

Dr. Kavoussi says bringing a list of questions that you have can help, especially if nerves come into play. “When you are being seen for an issue that may be uncomfortable to talk about, you will realize you forgot the questions you wanted to ask after you have already left,” he told dailyRx News.

Don't be Shocked by Tests

It is likely that your doctor may want to perform or schedule some routine tests during your appointment. “Ask if there's anything you need to do in advance. For example, your doctor may ask you not to eat before having a blood test,” Mayo Clinic recommends.

“The doctor may ask you to have some labs drawn before your follow-up visit or treatment,” said Dr. Kavoussi. “These may include a testosterone level, cholesterol parameters, and blood sugar.”

Other tests that may be suggested or performed in follow-up interviews include ultrasounds to check blood flow to the penis, urine tests and psychological exams to determine if depression or another mental issue is contributing to ED.

A doctor may also perform a physical exam, which “may include careful examination of your penis and testicles and checking your nerves for feeling," says the Mayo Clinic.

Full Disclosure

Remember that to effectively treat the condition, it is important to speak openly with your doctor about issues of ED. 

According to Dr. Kavoussi, the more honest and open you can be, the better. “The more information you can give the doctor about your ED, your habits, lifestyle, medications and medical history, the better the doctor can treat you,” he said.

Dr. Kavoussi provided some encouraging words to men coping with  ED: “Remember you are not alone and the doctor is used to discussing this with men every day. This is just another part of the body whose function needs to be addressed and optimized, just like you would go to the cardiologist if you were having heart problems.”

Though thoughts of starting that initial conversation may seem cringe-worthy, it will quickly become clear it is a topic doctors are very accustomed to discussing. The sooner the conversation begins, the sooner treatment can begin to improve ED.

Review Date: 
March 10, 2013