Medically reviewed by Vicky Davis, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 10/21/2022
If you’re beginning to experience difficulty getting or maintaining an erection, it can be difficult to work out when you should seek help from a doctor.
Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is a common form of sexual dysfunction. It occurs in men of all ages and can range from mild, occasional difficulty maintaining an erection to severe ED in which you may not be able to get hard at all.
An estimated 30 million men are affected by erectile dysfunction in the United States, making it one of the most common sexual function issues in men.
It’s best to see an erectile dysfunction doctor as soon as you start to feel concerned about your sexual health and performance. You can get help by talking to your primary care provider, or by making an appointment with a urologist (a specialist in the male reproductive system).
They may suggest one of several treatments for erectile dysfunction, such as medication to help you get and maintain an erection.
The earlier you seek help from an expert, the sooner you’ll be able to take action to restore and improve your sexual performance.
Below, we’ve talked about what erectile dysfunction is, as well as the symptoms you may notice if you’re affected by this common sexual health issue.
We’ve also discussed when you should see a doctor for erectile dysfunction, as well as the best options that you have to maintain a firm erection and enjoy more satisfying sex.
It’s far from uncommon to experience erection issues from time to time, especially when you’re stressed, distracted or simply not in the mood for sex.
As such, there’s usually no need to panic if you occasionally find it difficult to get or maintain an erection. This isn’t abnormal, and it’s more likely to be an “off day” than a sign of severe erectile dysfunction.
However, when you repeatedly find it difficult or impossible to get an erection during foreplay or sex, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider.
In general, the best time to see an erectile dysfunction doctor or visit an ED clinic is as soon as you feel concerned about your erectile health and/or sexual performance.
The sooner you can meet with a medical specialist to talk about erectile dysfunction, the earlier you’ll be able to treat your ED and improve your erectile health.
Finding and talking to an erectile dysfunction doctor is a simple process. There are several ways that you can receive help for ED:
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to talk to a doctor that specializes in sexual health to treat ED. If you have concerns about your erectile health, your primary care physician (PCP) is a great person to talk to for more information about your condition and treatment options.
Many primary care providers have lots of experience helping patients with sexual health issues such as ED. To diagnose ED, your healthcare provider may:
Ask you about your ED-related symptoms
Ask you about your general health
Carry out a physical exam
Although talking about your sexual health might feel awkward, it’s important to provide as much information as possible to your primary care provider.
Based on your symptoms, medical history and general health, your primary care provider may need to carry out additional tests to accurately diagnose ED. These may include:
Physically checking your penis for sensitivity issues, injuries or other factors that may affect your sexual performance.
Checking for signs of hormonal issues, high blood pressure or circulatory problems.
Taking a blood sample to test for issues such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, chronic kidney disease or other medical issues that may cause ED.
Other tests to measure blood flow and erectile health, such as Doppler ultrasound testing, injection tests and others.
Your primary care provider may prescribe medication to treat your erectile dysfunction. You can learn more about the medications used to treat ED further down the page in our section on ED treatments.
If a more complex health issue may be causing your ED, your primary care provider might refer you to a urologist, endocrinologist, cardiologist or other type of specialty care physician.
Urologists specialize in medicine related to the urinary and reproductive systems -- parts of your body that include your kidneys, bladder, penis, prostate and testicles.
If you’re concerned about erectile dysfunction, you can contact a local urologist and schedule an appointment. Your primary care provider may also refer you to a urologist directly.
Endocrinologists specialize in medicine related to the endocrine system -- the part of your body that produces and circulates hormones.
If you’re concerned about erectile dysfunction and think it could be related to a hormonal issue, such as low testosterone, you may benefit from talking to an endocrinologist.
Your primary care provider may also refer you to an endocrinologist directly if they believe your erectile dysfunction is related to an endocrine system issue, such as low testosterone, diabetes or other hormonal issues that can affect sexual desire and performance.
Erectile dysfunction can often develop due to mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety.
If you feel anxious or guilty about sex, or if you’re concerned that you might suffer from a clinical anxiety disorder or depression, talking to a mental health professional could help you to improve your mental wellbeing and overcome sexual issues such as ED.
We offer a complete range of online mental health services, including online therapy, letting you access expert help from the comfort and privacy of your home.
If you feel uncomfortable talking to a doctor about erectile dysfunction in person, you can talk to a licensed healthcare provider about ED treatment online.
Our telehealth platform allows you to discuss your symptoms with a healthcare provider through a private online consultation.
If appropriate, you’ll receive a prescription for FDA-approved medication to treat ED. We offer a variety of brand name and generic ED treatments, with discreet and convenient delivery to your home address.
Whether you talk to your primary care provider, visit a local sexual health clinic or access expert help online, your ED doctor will likely ask you several questions during your consultation.
These may include questions about your sexual history, such as when you first noticed began to notice signs of ED or if you’ve had any sexual health problems in the past. Make sure to answer your healthcare provider’s questions as honestly and thoroughly as you can.
Your ED doctor or other healthcare provider may also ask you about your family history of heart disease, vascular disease or other medical conditions that are risk factors for ED.
You may also be asked if you have experienced nerve damage, received treatment for prostate cancer, or have any injuries that may affect nerve function and stop you from being able to feel sexual stimulation.
Remember that the more information you can give your healthcare provider, the easier it will be for them to understand why you’re experiencing ED.
Your healthcare provider may suggest using medication to treat ED, such as sildenafil (Viagra®) or a similar type of PDE5 inhibitor.
This type of medication works by dilating your blood vessels and improving blood circulation to your penis, making it easier for you to get and maintain an erection sufficient for sex when you feel sexually aroused.
Other ED medications include tadalafil (Cialis®), vardenafil (Levitra®) and avanafil (a newer ED medication sold as Stendra®).
It’s normal to have questions when you talk to an ED doctor. Feel free to ask your doctor about any aspect of the diagnosis and treatment process, from what might be causing you to develop erectile dysfunction to how your medication works.
If you’re prescribed ED medication, it’s also okay to ask your doctor about potential side effects and interactions. Make sure to inform your ED doctor about any medications you currently take or have recently taken before you start treatment.
Remember that there’s no such thing as a right or wrong question. Feel free to talk to your ED doctor or healthcare provider about anything related to your symptoms, treatment or what you can expect in the future.
Erectile dysfunction is a common issue that affects men of all ages and backgrounds. When it’s persistent or severe, it can have a real negative impact on your sex life and overall wellbeing as a man.
If you’ve experienced symptoms of erectile dysfunction recently, it’s best to talk with a licensed healthcare provider as soon as you can.
You can do this by contacting your primary care provider, scheduling a consultation with a local urologist, or by taking part in a consultation for erectile dysfunction online.
ED is almost always treatable with medication, lifestyle changes or both. The sooner you talk to a healthcare provider, the sooner you’ll be able to start treating your ED and enjoying a fulfilling, satisfying sex life once again.
Interested in learning more about dealing with ED? Our guide to erectile dysfunction discusses what causes ED, how you can prevent it from developing and the best options available for the treatment of erectile dysfunction.