How To Tell If You Have ED and Ways To Get Ahead Of It

May 12, 2021

Just like any issue, the earlier that you identify it then the easier the treatment will be. Taking prescription ED medications can be an effective method to treating the symptoms of erectile dysfunction. However, if you are able to identify the risk factors early enough, and make the proper changes to reduce them, you might eliminate the need for any treatment options down the road.  

How Do You Know If You Have Erectile Dysfunction?

The symptoms of erectile dysfunction can be a little difficult to notice at first. Having occasional erectile dysfunction is perfectly normal and will happen to men of all ages at some point or another. The issue is when these random and occasional struggles become the standard and happen often. 

If you frequently experience the following symptoms, or they are happening more often than before, then you might have erectile dysfunction:

  • A reduced libido and lowered interest in sex
  • Difficulty becoming erect and/or staying erect
  • Erections are weaker than normal or too soft for sex

Can A Doctor Diagnose ED? 

If you think that you might have erectile dysfunction, you should schedule an appointment with a medical professional, preferably a urologist. The doctor will view your medical history, ask about sexual history, and perform some mental and physical exams. 

It might be a little difficult to talk about private issues, but it’s important to be honest and answer the questions truthfully. Erectile dysfunction is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about — tens of millions of men experience it every year.

Here are some of the tests that you can expect the doctor to administer:

  • Questions about sexual history. These questions will largely revolve around your sex life. Your doctor will ask about your erections, satisfaction with sex, orgasms, and sex drive. Even though these questions will be highly personal, it’s important to answer truthfully. Your doctor may wish to speak to your partner for more information, but it’s not guaranteed.  
  • Physical exam. This test would involve checking the overall sensitivity of your penis and its response to touch. The doctor will perform a thorough inspection of the penis and the testicles in order to determine if any issues are related to nerve conditions or a lack of sensation in the penis. The doctor will also test your blood pressure to see if it’s too high.
  • Lab tests. After your doctor draws some blood and/or takes a urine sample they will send it to a lab to run some tests. The results could indicate underlying medical conditions that might be contributing to erectile issues. Some of these potential issues include heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, atherosclerosis, or low levels of testosterone. 
  • An ultrasound. By using a device that looks similar to a wand, the doctor will be able to create an image of the blood flow of your penis. A color image will be created on a computer screen that can show the speed and direction of blood as it travels through the arteries, veins, and various blood vessels. 
  • Nocturnal test. This test can be performed at home while you are asleep. The doctor will provide you with a plastic device that is shaped like a ring for you to wear during the night. This device will monitor the number, duration, and strength of the erections that occur during sleep. In the event that you are unable to have an erection during sleep, the issue is most likely physical. If erections are frequent and firm during sleep, the issue is most likely psychological.   

What Are the Risk Factors Associated With Erectile Dysfunction? 

From a technical standpoint, erectile dysfunction itself is not a medical condition. The symptoms are typically the result of either a physical or psychological issue. Unfortunately, this means that there is no permanent cure for erectile dysfunction. However, by treating the underlying cause or avoiding some of the risk factors, you can reduce the frequency and severity of erectile dysfunction. 

If any of the following statements are true, then you are at an increased risk for experiencing erectile dysfunction:

  • Over the age of 40
  • Have heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes
  • Suffer from anxiety, depression, or stress
  • Have sustained an injury to your spine or pelvic area
  • Are overweight or obese
  • Drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or use illicit drugs
  • Have trouble staying asleep at night or a sleeping disorder
  • Are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments
  • Have an enlarged prostate 
  • Take blood pressure medications, antidepressants, or antihistamines
  • Have a nerve condition such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or Peyronie’s disease

Can You Prevent Erectile Dysfunction From Happening?

While it may not be possible to completely prevent erectile dysfunction, you can significantly reduce your odds of experiencing it. 

By avoiding or managing the risk factors listed above, you should be able to reduce the frequency and severity of erectile dysfunction, depending on the issue that’s causing it. Some of the risk factors are unavoidable, such as growing older. 

However, making the below lifestyle changes can help you to reduce some of the other risk factors and lower your odds of experiencing erectile dysfunction.  

Start an Exercise Routine 

Physical exercise is a great way to strengthen the muscles of your cardiovascular system and improve your blood circulation. It doesn’t require high intensity training or an extremely strict regiment. Just a daily 30 minute walk is enough to help out. By getting around 160 minutes of exercise a week you can lower the risk of erectile issues relating to a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, high blood pressure, or various heart diseases.  

Watch What You Eat 

If you are eating foods high in salt, sugar, or fat then you are increasing your odds of high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. While cutting back on these foods will be beneficial, replacing them with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fish can be even more helpful. 

By eating a healthier diet you will also be able to shed excess weight. Getting your body mass index (BMI) down to a 25 or lower will significantly reduce the odds of erectile dysfunction. A man with a BMI between 25 and 30 is one and a half times as likely to experience erectile dysfunction. The odds increase to three times as likely for men with a BMI over 30. 

Take Care of Your Mental Health 

While this change might be easier said than done, finding ways to lower stress, anxiety, and depression will greatly improve erectile function. Mood plays a critical role with erections — so much so that even prescription medications are largely ineffective without arousal. Talking with a therapist about any potential psychological issues or negative emotions will not only improve your mental health, but your sexual function as well.

Get Rid of the Bad Habits

Alcohol, tobacco, and drugs are all major risk factors for erectile dysfunction. Alcohol relaxes arteries and veins in the body which will improve blood flow. While this will improve the blood flow into the penis, it will also improve the blood flow out of the penis, making it much more difficult to maintain an erection. Smoking will not only damage your heart and lungs, but the nicotine will constrict your arteries and increase blood pressure. 

Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor 

There are several muscles in your pelvic area that will play a role with your erectile functions. By working them out and making them stronger, you can help improve the quality of your erections long term. 

Performing Kegel exercises daily can help strengthen your pelvic floor. These exercises are fairly simple and with some practice you will be able to perform them either laying down, sitting, standing, or walking. 

1. Locate the correct muscles. This step can be a little difficult, but it’s important that you are working out the right muscles. The next that you are urinating, try to cut off the stream. The muscles that you are using are the same ones that you will be working out.

2. Flex and hold the muscles for a count of three to five seconds.

3. Release and rest for a count of three to five seconds. 

4. Repeat this process 10 to 20 times to create a set.

5. Perform two to three sets daily.

Get Enough Sleep 

Sleep is a very important part of your day. It’s recommended that you get between seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night. If you have difficulty with falling asleep or staying asleep, then you are probably not getting enough quality sleep. This can have a monumental ripple effect on your overall health, including your erections and sexual function.  

The Takeaway: The best treatment for erectile dysfunction is prevention. By identifying the issue as early as you can, then making certain lifestyle changes, you can dramatically reduce the frequency and severity of erectile dysfunction.

There are plenty of ways to treat erectile dysfunction. Prescription medications such as Viagra®, Cialis®, or Levitra® are some of the most effective and popular treatments. However, if you are able to identify the issue fast enough and make some changes in your life, you might not need to use any medications in the first place. 


[Obesity--significant risk factor for erectile dysfunction in men]

Sleep, Sleep Disorders, and Sexual Dysfunction

Pelvic floor exercises for erectile dysfunction

Physical Activity to Improve Erectile Function: A Systematic Review of Intervention Studies.

Erectile dysfunction and mental health in a general population of older men

Effects of cigarette smoking on erectile dysfunction

Diagnosis of Erectile Dysfunction | NIDDK

Association of Diet With Erectile Dysfunction Among Men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study

Alcohol intake and risk of erectile dysfunction: a dose-response meta-analysis of observational studies.

Modifying Risk Factors in the Management of Erectile Dysfunction: A Review.

(ED) Symptoms & Causes of Erectile Dysfunction | NIDDK

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Disclaimer : This article is for information only and should not be considered medical advice. Always speak with your doctor about your health and the benefits or risks of any treatment or intervention. This information should not be relied on as a substitute for professional medical advice.