Erectile dysfunction (ED) can affect your quality of life, but it’s important to know there are some effective treatments that can help you manage your symptoms. In some cases, your primary care physician may be able to help. Other times, you may need to visit a specialist.

Let’s take a look at doctors who treat ED, how to find one, and how to prepare for your visit.

The best type of doctor for ED may depend on the cause. But you’ll likely need to see a urologist along the way. Urology is a specialty that involves diagnosing and treating disorders of the:

Other doctors you may see for ED are:

Your primary care physician can refer you to a specialist qualified to treat ED. Some other ways you can find a urologist include:

  • getting a list from your local hospital
  • checking your insurance carrier’s list of specialists
  • asking someone you trust for recommendations
  • visiting the Urology Care Foundation’s searchable database

ED is very personal, so it’s natural to have personal preferences for your choice of doctor. For instance, some people may feel more comfortable seeing a male doctor.

If you have personal preferences, it’s better to state them up-front rather than go to an appointment that won’t work out. You may also want to consider office location and any health insurance benefits when choosing a doctor.

Once you have a list of potential doctors to choose from, you can search online for more information about their background and practice.

Keep in mind that if you visit a doctor and don’t feel like it’s a good match, you’re not obligated to continue seeking treatment with them. You’re free to continue searching until you find a doctor you like.

If you feel uncomfortable discussing ED, rest assured that the urologist’s office is the right place to do it. Urologists are trained in this area and are used to talking about ED. They’ll help guide the discussion and address your concerns.

Be prepared to discuss:

  • your ED symptoms and how long they’ve been going on
  • other symptoms, even if you think they’re unrelated
  • your complete medical history, including other diagnosed health conditions
  • any prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, and dietary supplements you take
  • whether you smoke
  • whether you drink alcohol, including how much you drink
  • any stress or relationship difficulties you may be experiencing
  • how ED is affecting your life

Your doctor will likely have other questions for you as well, such as:

  • Have you had surgeries, treatments, or injuries that may have affected blood vessels or nerves near the penis?
  • What’s your level of sexual desire? Has this changed recently?
  • Do you ever have an erection when you first wake up in the morning?
  • Do you get an erection during masturbation?
  • How often do you maintain an erection long enough for intercourse? When was the last time this happened?
  • Are you able to ejaculate and orgasm? How often?
  • Are there things that improve symptoms or make matters worse?
  • Do you have anxiety, depression, or any mental health conditions?
  • Does your partner have sexual difficulties?

Taking notes makes it less likely that you’ll forget important information during your appointment. Here are some questions you might want to ask:

  • What might be causing my ED?
  • What kind of tests do I need?
  • Do I need to see other specialists?
  • What kind of treatments do you recommend? What are the pros and cons of each?
  • What are the next steps?
  • Where can I get more information about ED?

Your urologist will likely perform a physical exam, which may include:

  • checking the pulse in your wrists and ankles to see if there’s a circulation problem
  • examining the penis and testicles for abnormalities, injuries, and sensitivity
  • checking for breast enlargement or hair loss on the body, which could indicate a hormone imbalance or circulation problems

Diagnostic testing may include:

Intracavernosal injection is a test in which a drug is injected into your penis or urethra. This will cause an erection so the doctor can see how long it lasts and if the underlying problem is related to blood flow.

It’s normal to have three to five erections while you sleep. A nocturnal erection test can find out if that’s happening. It involves wearing a plastic ring around your penis while you sleep.

The urologist will gather information from the physical exam, tests, and discussion. Then they can determine if there’s an underlying physical or psychological condition that needs treatment.

The approach to treatment will depend on the cause. Treatment will include managing underlying physical and psychological conditions that can contribute to ED.

Oral medications

Oral medications to treat ED include:

These medications help increase blood flow but only cause an erection if you’re sexually aroused. There’s some variation, but they usually work in about 30 minutes to an hour.

You may not be able to take these medications if you have certain health conditions, such as heart disease or low blood pressure. Your doctor can explain the pros and cons of each drug. It may take trial and error to find the right medication and dose.

Side effects may include headaches, stomach upset, stuffy nose, vision changes, and flushing. A rare but serious side effect is priapism, or an erection that lasts 4 or more hours.

Other medications

Other medications to treat ED include:

  • Self-injection. You can use a fine needle to inject medication, such as alprostadil (Caverject, Edex, MUSE), to the base or side of the penis. One dose can give you an erection that lasts about an hour. Side effects may include injection site pain and priapism.
  • Suppositories. Alprostadil intraurethral is a suppository you insert into the urethra. You can get an erection in as quickly as 10 minutes, and it can last up to an hour. Side effects may include minor pain and bleeding.
  • Testosterone replacement therapy. This can be helpful if you have low testosterone.

Penis pump

A penis pump is a hollow tube with a pump powered by hand or battery. You place the tube over your penis, then use the pump to create a vacuum to pull blood into your penis. Once you have an erection, a ring around the base of the penis holds it. Then you remove the pump.

Your doctor can prescribe a specific pump. Side effects can include bruising and loss of spontaneity.

Surgery

Surgery is usually reserved for those who’ve already tried other methods. There are a couple of options:

  • You can have malleable rods surgically implanted. They’ll keep your penis firm, but you’ll be able to position it as you desire. Alternatively, you can choose inflatable rods.
  • In some cases, surgery to repair arteries may improve blood flow and make it easier to get an erection.

Surgical complications can include infection, bleeding, or reaction to anesthesia.

Psychological counseling

Therapy can be used alone or in combination with other treatments if ED is caused by:

Lifestyle

In some cases, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes as part of your treatment plan. These can include:

  • Quitting smoking. Smoking affects blood vessels and can cause or exacerbate ED. If you have trouble quitting, your doctor can recommend a smoking cessation program.
  • Getting regular exercise. Being overweight or having obesity can contribute to ED. Getting regular exercise can improve your overall health and help you lose weight if your doctor recommends doing so.
  • Avoiding or reducing alcohol and drug use. Talk with your doctor if you’re looking for help with reducing substance use.

Be cautious about supplements and other products that claim to cure ED. Always check with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter supplements for ED.

ED is a common condition — and one that’s usually treatable. If you’re experiencing ED, talk to your doctor. Urologists are trained in diagnosing and treating ED. Your primary care physician can help you find one who suits your needs.