Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

Diagnosis of Erectile Dysfunction (Impotence)

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. This will include an examination of the penis, testicles, and rectum. Be prepared to identify every medication you are taking. Medications account for a large number of erectile dysfunction cases. Expect questions about the frequency, quality, and duration of your erections. Your answers may help determine if the primary cause is physical or psychological in nature.

Tests will help narrow down the cause and may include:

  • Blood tests to evaluate kidney or heart function. Blood test can also check levels of:
    • Testosterone
    • Glucose
    • Cholesterol
    • Hormones such as thyroid hormones or prolactin
  • Erectile function tests—To evaluate the function of blood vessels and nerves in the pelvic area. Devices can be used to record spontaneous erections at night. This may be an option if you do not remember them because you were asleep.
  • Psychological—Psychological factors are associated with sexual functioning, whether they are the cause or just a result. You (with or without your partner) may be given a questionnaire to help determine if there are psychological and emotional factors present.
  • Cardiac stress test—Poor cardiovascular function is associated with erectile dysfunction. Exercise tolerance can be similar to sexual activity. Physical testing may include walking on a flat surface for 20 minutes or climing 2 flights of stairs in 10 seconds.
REFERENCES:

Diagnosis of erectile dysfunction. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/diagnosis. Updated July 2017. Accessed March 9, 2018.

Erectile dysfunction. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113875/Erectile-dysfunction. Updated December 15, 2017. Accessed March 9, 2018.

Erectile dysfuntion. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/genitourinary-disorders/male-sexual-dysfunction/erectile-dysfunction. Updated June 2017. Accessed March 9, 2018.

How is ED diagnosed? Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: http://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/erectile-dysfunction/diagnosis. Accessed March 9, 2018.

Rew KT, Heidelbaugh JJ. Erectile dysfunction. Am Fam Physician. 2016;94(10):820-827.

Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrienne Carmack, MD  Last Updated: 3/15/2015