(RxWiki News) Men can look up how to fix their erectile dysfunction themselves and maybe even find the drugs to take care of it. But that may not be the best approach.
Men with erectile dysfunction (ED) delayed more than two and a half years on average before seeking medical help, according to a recently published study.
The vast amount of info available on ED and the ease of getting medicines to treat the problem may be the reason men hold off on doctors' help.
At the same time, researchers said public awareness campaigns are needed to help patients better understand the link between ED and other health problems.
"ED questions? Talk to a health professional."
ED has been linked to an increased risk of developing heart disease and other cardiovascular problems.
Researchers aimed to see how long men waited before seeking medical help for newly onset ED and what factors played into their decision to seek help.
The study, led by Andrea Salonia, MD, from the Department of Urology at the University Vita-Salute San Raffaele in Milan, Italy, included 619 patients who were primarily white and started having erectile problems between July 2000 and July 2010.
Researchers determined whether participants were aware of the common ED treatment Viagra, which contains sildenafil. Researchers also looked at the severity of each ED case and whether the patients had any other associated illnesses.
Each individual patient reported how long they waited between first developing erectile problems and finally seeking help.
Researchers found that the delay in seeking help for ED remained relatively high over the span of the study. On average, men with ED sought help after two and a half years, or 30.2 months, of experiencing symptoms.
The time between the start of the dysfunction and seeking help ranged between five months to as long as a quarter of a century.
The severity of the dysfunction, as well as the men's age, level of education and whether they had any illnesses linked with the dysfunction did not impact whether the men sought help faster.
Despite the vast availability of information on ED that has come with the digital age, researchers said that ignorance regarding ED's role in cardiovascular disease and health overall "is still quite high at the public level."
At the same time, medicines such as Viagra in treating erectile dysfunction are widely accessible and "probably the largest most counterfeited class of drugs," according to the researchers.
Both the wide accessibility of ED medications and the belief that ED was not that serious may explain why men did not talk to a doctor about their erectile problems.
"Similarly, men stated their hope that erectile dysfunction might resolve spontaneously or that it should be considered a normal part of aging," researchers wrote. "Consequently, partners and friends, the Internet, and non-medical healthcare providers (i.e., pharmacists) were the most used ways to get information and assistance."
Researchers noted that they did not explicitly report patients' reasons for getting medical help or find out how much the patients knew already about their ED. The researchers also did not gather information about the specialists who referred the patients to the study, which may have biased results.
In addition, the researchers did not look at the role men's partners played in seeking help or other life factors that could affect patients' ability and decision to talk to a health professional.
The study was published in the December 2012 issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine. No conflicts of interest were reported.