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Diagnosing erectile dysfunction ED

Diagnosing erectile dysfunction

Before diagnosing erectile dysfunction (ED), your GP will ask you about your symptoms, your overall physical and mental health, your alcohol consumption, whether you take drugs, and whether you are currently taking any medication.

Your GP will also want to know whether your ED is permanent, or only occurs when you are attempting to have sex with your partner. The former suggests that there is an underlying physical cause, and the latter suggests an underlying psychological cause. Your GP may carry out a physical examination of your penis to rule out any possible anatomical causes, such as Peyronie's disease.

Blood tests may also be used to check for possible underlying health conditions. For example, abnormal hormone levels could suggest a hormonal condition, such as an under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism), or high glucose levels could suggest diabetes.

A blood pressure test is usually carried out to check if you have high blood pressure (hypertension).

Further testing

Further testing for ED is usually only required if you are unusually young to be experiencing ED. This is because ED is relatively rare in men who are under 40 years of age.

Your GP may also recommend further testing if they think that you may have a more serious underlying health condition, such as heart disease, or arteriosclerosis. Some of these tests are outlined below.


An ultrasound scanner can be used to build up a more detailed picture of the blood vessels inside your penis.

Intracavernous injection test

An intracavernous injection test involves injecting a synthetic hormone into your penis in order to increase the blood flow to your penis. If the injection fails to produce an erection, it may indicate that there is a problem with the blood supply to your penis.


Cavernosometry involves injecting a special dye into the blood vessels of your penis. The dye is then studied on a scanner and can help show how the blood is moving through your penis, and whether there are any blockages, or abnormalities, in the blood vessels.

Nocturnal tumescence test

Most healthy men experience erections when they are sleeping, so a nocturnal tumescence test involves spending a night in hospital. During the test, a piece of perforated tape is tied to the base of your penis. If you have an erection during the night, the tape will break. A nocturnal tumescence test is useful for determining whether ED is due to physical or psychological causes.

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