Harvard Men's Health Watch

On call: Testing for erectile dysfunction

On call

Testing for erectile dysfunction

Q. When I saw my doctor on my 73rd birthday, my only complaint was that I've been having trouble with my erections over the past year. I was surprised that my doctor didn't do any blood tests beyond the usual battery, and he didn't refer me to a specialist. Instead, he gave me a prescription for Viagra. The pills are working fine, but should I have tests to find out what's wrong?

A. In a sense, Viagra's success is responsible for the brevity of your evaluation. Sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra), and tadalafil (Cialis) all produce good results in about 70% of men, so it's easy to see why many doctors skip the tests and go straight to treatment. Still, an evaluation is important.

As in so many areas of medicine, the most important step is also the most neglected: Ask the patient. Here are six questions that may tell a lot about the cause of a man's erectile dysfunction.

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