8 Tests for Erection Problems

If you've experienced a problem having an erection, you may have simply ignored it out of embarrassment. After all, it's not exactly the type of issue you want to bring up with your doctor, and even if you did, you may well wonder whether anything can be done about it.

The truth is, erectile dysfunction (ED) is definitely worth discussing with your health care provider because once the source is discovered, you can be on your way way treatment. Additionally, problems with erections can sometimes be a red flag for other health issues.

"Erectile dysfunction can be an early predictor of eventual heart disease or stroke," says Joseph Alukal, MD, a urologist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. "I urge patients to be screened by their primary care physician to see if they have certain risk factors." Some poor health habits, like smoking and eating a fatty diet, can be corrected, thus reducing your chances of getting heart disease.

When you report symptoms of erectile dysfunction, here are some tests your doctor is likely to do.

1. Check your blood pressure. It's simple and painless, and if you find out you have hypertension, you'll be treated. You may also find that the high blood pressure, or hypertension,  is contributing to your erection problems. "The thinking is that you could possible having atherosclerotic disease in the penile blood vessels," says Greg Bales, MD, associate professor of urology at the University of Chicago School of Medicine. "More and more, we recognize that sometimes the first sign of vascular disease is erectile dysfunction."

2. A urinalysis. If you're spilling sugar into your urine, this may indicate diabetes, which is a definite risk factor for erection issues. If you have diabetes, you can receive the appropriate treatment.

3. An ultrasound of the penile arteries. This would only be performed in men who aren't responding to certain medications.

4. Hormone tests. Often when men are experiencing erection problems, they assume. the cause is low testosterone. But that's not often the case. Your doctor will be check your hormone levels to be sure, though.

5. A quiz on what medications you're taking. Certain medications, including some very common antidepressants, are known to lower libido. Your doctor may switch you to another medication.

6. A screening for depression. "Feeling insecure about a job loss or a bad breakup can cause erection problems," Bales says. "A man may find that his erection difficulties are solely due to psychological factors." Often, if psychological problems are found, he may be advised to try having sex at a different time of the day. When the pressure to perform on a Saturday night is off, it may be easier for him to relax. "The last thing he needs is to rush off to dinner and a movie with his wife, pay the babysitter, and then be expected to perform," Bales says. "It just may not be the right time. A Sunday afternoon might work out to be better."

7. A PSA test. This blood test, which screens for the presence of too much prostate-specific antigens, may help your doctor determine whether your prostate gland is healthy. It's typically performed in combination with a digital rectal exam to help your doctor get an overall picture.

8. A blood test to check your cholesterol level. If it's high, you could be at risk for heart disease, which can lead to erection problems. Men with high cholesterol will be instructed on how to modify their diets (such as by reducing their intake of saturated fat), and they may also be given medication to bring down their cholesterol level.