Tips for talking to your doctor about ED

If you've been having difficulty getting or sustaining erections, talk about it with your doctor. Such a conversation is never easy, but thanks in part to greater publicity about this problem and its treatment, many obstacles have been toppled.

Be prepared to provide your doctor with detailed information. This is not simply a matter of walking into the doctor's office, emerging with a prescription, and regaining your erections. Your doctor will try to determine the cause of your ED in order to recommend an effective treatment.

While therapy often involves medication, ED is sometimes a symptom of an underlying condition that requires its own treatment. Also, medication is more effective for some causes of ED than for others. For instance, if you've had prostate surgery, pills probably won't work as well as other treatments.

And if a psychological condition is significantly involved, you may benefit from counseling with a mental health professional trained in sex therapy.

Providing your medical history

At first, the doctor will probably ask you about your medical history. Do you have any chronic illnesses? What illnesses and operations have you had in the past? What medications are you taking, if any? Your doctor is also likely to ask about your psychological well-being and lifestyle: Do you suffer (or have you ever suffered) from depression? Are you under a lot of stress? Do you drink alcohol? Smoke? Use illegal drugs? Have you felt a loss of affection for your partner? Have you recently grown interested in a new partner?

Tips for talking to your doctor about ED

Have you ever planned to ask your doctor about ED, only to leave the exam room without starting the conversation? The courage to raise this important topic can elude even the most articulate of men. There is help for ED, but the first step is consulting your doctor. The tips below may give you the assistance you need to discuss your concerns.

Find the words that are right for you. Say some of these "icebreakers" to yourself, choose the one that feels most natural, and practice it aloud to yourself or with your partner before your appointment.

Rehearsing just a little might boost your confidence and comfort level so you can follow through with your doctor:

  • "I think I might have ED."
  • How can I tell if I have ED?"
  • "I'm having trouble getting erections."
  • "I want to ask you about a men's health issue."
  • "I'm having some problems in the bedroom."

Write down your questions. Appointments these days can be short, so coming prepared with a list of your questions can increase the likelihood that you will get the answers you need. Your list will also help you stay on track if you feel nervous or uncomfortable during the appointment.

Keep track of your symptoms ahead of time. After you initiate a conversation about ED with your doctor, he or she will probably ask you some questions in order to form a complete picture of your specific issues. You can make the most of your discussion by writing down the details of your experiences before your appointment.

Once you have started the ED discussion, most doctors will take it from there. However, some doctors may feel embarrassed discussing certain topics that have to do with sex, even if the topic is medical. If you sense your doctor is uncomfortable talking about ED, ask for a referral to a urologist—a specialist trained to treat conditions related to the urinary tract and male reproductive system.

For more on diagnosing and treating ED, read What to do About Erectile Dysfunction, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

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