Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 3/14/2021
If you’re experiencing 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 problem. It can affect men of all ages and range from mild, occasional difficulty maintaining an erection to severe ED in which you may not be able to get hard at all.
If you’ve had erection issues recently, it’s generally best to talk to a healthcare provider as soon as you can. 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 the common symptoms you may experience if you’re affected by ED, as well as when you should consider talking to a doctor.
We’ve also talked about how you can find a qualified, capable doctor that can help you to treat erectile dysfunction and enjoy a fulfilling, satisfying sex life once again.
Erectile dysfunction is a common issue that affects approximately 30 million men in the United States.
ED can vary in severity. If you have ED, you may find it difficult to get an erection at any time, or just find it difficult to maintain an erection during sex.
It’s best to talk to a doctor about erectile dysfunction as soon as you start to experience symptoms, especially if you have recurring or persistent ED.
Many types of doctors can diagnose and treat ED, including primary care physicians and specialists such as urologists.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a doctor about ED in person, or if you’d prefer not to leave your home, you can talk to a licensed healthcare provider about ED online and, if appropriate, receive a prescription for FDA-approved medication.
Erectile dysfunction is a common condition that can make it difficult or impossible to develop or maintain an erection when you’re sexually aroused.
Like many other types of sexual dysfunction, ED can vary in severity. You might be affected by ED if you:
Can’t get an erection at any time, including during sexual activity
Can occasionally get an erection, but not every time you want to have sex
Can get an erection, but can’t maintain it long enough for satisfying sex
Erectile dysfunction can potentially affect all men, but certain factors may make you more at risk than others. You may have a higher risk of developing ED if you:
Are affected by certain medical conditions or diseases
Suffer from a mental health disorder
Use certain types of medication
Smoke cigarettes, are overweight or have other potentially harmful habits
Our guide to the causes of erectile dysfunction goes into more detail about the factors that may increase your risk of developing ED.
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.
However, when you repeatedly find it difficult or impossible to get an erection during foreplay or sex, it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider.
In general, the best time to see an erectile dysfunction doctor is as soon as you feel concerned about your erectile health and/or sexual performance.
The sooner you meet with a doctor 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 may 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 it 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.
If you feel uncomfortable talking to a doctor about erectile dysfunction in person, you can talk to a licensed healthcare provider about erectile dysfunction 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.
Although erectile dysfunction can be a frustrating issue to deal with, it’s almost always treatable.
Most of the time, ED can be treated with medication. ED medications work by improving the flow of blood to your penis, making it easier for you to develop and maintain an erection when you’re sexually aroused.
Several medications are currently available to treat ED, including:
Tadalafil. The active ingredient in Cialis®, tadalafil is a longer-lasting medication that’s effective for up to 36 hours per dose.
Vardenafil. The active ingredient in Levitra®, vardenafil lasts for a similar period of time to sildenafil.
Avanafil. Available as Stendra®, avanafil is a newer, second-generation ED medication that works quickly and has a lower risk of causing certain side effects.
We offer several FDA-approved erectile dysfunction medications online, following a consultation with a physician who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.
You can learn more about how these medications work, their potential side effects and more in our guide to the most common ED treatments.
It’s also often possible to improve your erectile health and sexual performance through certain lifestyle changes and habits. Try to:
Stay physically active. Research shows that regular aerobic exercise is linked to better erectile health in men with ED. Try to exercise every day, even if it’s just a light workout for 15 to 60 minutes.
If you smoke, quit. Smoking can damage your cardiovascular system, making it harder for blood to flow into your penis and create an erection. If you’re a smoker, try using the techniques in our guide to quitting smoking to kick the habit for good.
Check your testosterone levels. If you have erectile dysfunction and a weak sex drive at the same time, low testosterone could be the culprit. You can check your testosterone levels with a trip to an endocrinologist and a simple blood test.
Limit your porn consumption. Some research has found that excessive porn watching may reduce your brain’s response to erotic stimulation, potentially causing porn-induced erectile dysfunction.
If you watch porn often, try to reduce your consumption. Alternatively, try avoiding porn altogether for a few weeks to see if your sexual performance improves.
We’ve talked more about lifestyle changes and habits that may improve your erectile health in our full guide to naturally protecting your erection.
If you’ve had erection issues recently, it’s best to talk to a licensed healthcare provider as soon as you can.
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.
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