Can You Test Yourself For Erectile Dysfunction?
By The Rex MD Editorial TeamNovember 4, 2020
Erectile Dysfunction is a complicated affliction for men. The reasons and underlying causes can be wide-ranging, including other physical co-morbidities like diabetes or heart disease, mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, medications, and other habits like smoking.
Diagnosing and testing for ED yourself can be just as complex, and with mediocre success. Medical professionals advise against ED self-diagnosing, and the most comprehensive approach should involve speaking with a physician. In fact, that's the only way guys can access effective medications like Viagra (sildenafil) and Cialis (tadalafil), which require a prescription.
As soon as you start poking around online, however, you'll realize there are some techniques that men throw around on internet forums for diagnosing ED yourself. Here's the skinny.
Quick Facts About ED Self-Diagnosing
Diagnosing ED should be done only with the help of a healthcare professional.
ED meds can be highly effective, but they require a physician's prescription.
Two approaches you might read about for DIYing a diagnosis are the Stamp Test and the SHIM questionnaire.
What is Erectile Dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction is defined as the inability to get or maintain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse. In reality, ED affects guys differently, and how it presents itself is not uniform. That's one reason it can be challenging to diagnose by yourself.
ED has a myriad of causes, but if affects as many as 10% of guys for every ten years of age: about 40% of guys in their 40s will be affected and 70% of men in their 70s, according to some estimates. It does affect older men more frequently, partly due to hormonal changes we all go through, but younger men are increasingly likely to report ED. One publication suggests as many as 1 in 4 guys seeking treatment for ED are under the age of 40.
ED often occurs due to other physical conditions. Diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and hormonal conditions are all known to increase the likelihood of ED. This is often because these conditions affect blood flow, a critical aspect of getting a rock-solid erection.
Smoking, obesity, and alcoholism are also risk factors for ED, and mental health issues like depression are primary contributors too.
The important thing to know: you're not alone! There are millions of men across the U.S. dealing with ED, and many of them are getting great effective treatment after a quality diagnosis.
How Doctors Test For ED
There is no single erectile dysfunction test, but there are ways that physicians begin to pick the problem apart for most guys. It requires evaluating a number of variables for most guys.
Your physician will likely begin with an assessment of your medical and sexual history. They're looking for obvious causes, like diabetes, that may need to be addressed as an underlying condition before dealing directly with ED. These underlying causes may also resolve your ED. They're also looking for any medications that might affect your blood flow and sexual capabilities/libido, as well as looking for medications that might prohibit you from taking effective, prescription ED meds like Viagra (sildenafil). If you're working with a doctor for an ED diagnosis, be honest about your background. Not only can omitting important information be dangerous to your health, it can also lead to a wrong diagnosis, or none at all. If you're dealing with stress and anxiety, or something traumatic happened in your past sex life, make sure they know about.
Next, your doctor will conduct a physical exam to identify any issues not already known. If you're behind on your annual checkups, for example, they'll be looking for underlying health conditions that haven't been caught yet. They'll check your blood pressure, breathing, heart rate, weight, and will likely run some blood tests to look for hormonal or lipid issues.
They'll also be examining your penis and testicles to make sure things look normal.
While this process can be a little uncomfortable, your physician is there for you and they know you're likely apprehensive about the process. And, remember their hippocratic oath means they're sworn to patient privacy.
Self-Testing: How To Test If You Have Erectile Dysfunction
But CAN you test yourself for erectile dysfunction? A physician's diagnosis is the best way to test for ED, and healthcare professionals will tell you NOT to try to self-diagnose. But there are some interesting ways men have tried to test themselves for ED over the years.
The Stamp Test
One of the ways that men have tested themselves for ED is called The Stamp Test. It's simple (and only somewhat effective), and involves testing for erections while you sleep. Erections during sleep, called Nocturnal Penile Tumescence (NPT), are a natural part of men's health. Most guys will get 1-5 erections during the night, without even knowing it!
Postage stamps can be purchased in long rolls, where the stamps are connected by perforations that tear easily in order to pull just one stamp away. In The Stamp Test, a guy wraps a few connected stamps around the shaft of their penis before bed. During the night, if they get a erection, the perforations pull apart, and it's clear (ideally) in the morning that they had an erection at some point in the night. The goal is to rule out total loss of erection ability.
The stamp test gets traction on online forums and message boards but has almost no credibility in the healthcare world due to how easily stamps can pull away – erection or not.
The Sexual Health Inventory for Men (SHIM) questionnaire is a short series of multiple-choice questions that can help a physician determine whether you have ED.
The questions are:
How do you rate your confidence that you could get and keep an erection?
When you had erections with sexual stimulation, how often were your erections hard enough for penetration (entering your partner)?
During sexual intercourse, how often were you able to maintain your erection after you had penetrated (entered) your partner?
During sexual intercourse, how difficult was it to maintain your erection to completion of intercourse?
When you've attempted sexual intercourse, how often was it satisfactory for you?
Answers are associated with a numerical score between 1 and 5 each, and summed at the end. Out of 25 points, the lower the score the higher the likelihood and severity of E.D.
This test, also known as the IIEF-5, is an abbreviated form of the 15-item International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) developed in the 90s. It came to prominence at a time when more men than ever were seeking diagnosis and treatment for ED thanks to the approval of the first prescription ED medication in the U.S., Viagra (sildenafil).
While the SHIM questionnaire is a good tool for healthcare professionals, your results aren't likely to give you a whole lot of information to execute on. Still, the SHIM can be a nice starting point if you're sitting at home wondering what to do next. The best way to get a proper diagnosis – and treatment – is with the help of a licensed doctor.
Now, Get An ED Test Done Online
Broadband and easy internet access are making in-person doctor visits unnecessary for guys suffering from ED. Telehealth companies like Rex MD specializes in helping guys connect with licensed U.S. physicians by phone for prescription ED meds, if approved.
At Rex MD, the process is simple, and the medications are affordable. Members fill out a medical questionnaire and make their medication selection. After checkout, one of our physicians gets in touch to talk through the diagnosis, some further health screening, medical background, and understand what the member needs. If approved, they can write a prescription for effective medications like Cialis (tadalafil) and Viagra (sildenafil), and have the medication shipped within about 48 hours. This virtual visit is fast and free, and members can get started with recurring deliveries for as little as $40/month.
Take the guesswork out of diagnosing ED with a free virtual visit from RexMD.com. If approved, Rex MD members get prescription ED medications delivered to their door in discreet packaging, with the safety and help of a licensed U.S. physician. It's all done remotely and from the comfort of your own home. Start your ED assessment today.