Erectile dysfunction (ED) hits men where it hurts (and it’s not so fun for their partners either). It may be tempting to solve erection problems by simply ordering sexual enhancement pills online. But you need a face-to-face appointment with a physician — not just to solve the sex problem but for your overall health.
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“The penis is the dipstick for the body,” says urologist Daniel Shoskes, MD. “Erectile dysfunction often means there is another problem — like heart disease — that needs to be treated.”
Sexual dysfunction is often related to other diseases
You avoid the doctor like the plague (which is what it would take to get you into his office). ED and other sexual dysfunction may be the first time some men experience a physical concern that warrants medical care.
I often see guys with ED who don’t have routine medical care. I’m frequently the one who does a history and physical to understand the ED and ends up diagnosing an underlying condition.
When is erectile dysfunction — the inability to have an erection — a sign of something else? Here are a few scenarios:
- Diabetes: Poor control of blood sugar could damage nerves and vessels that supply the penis.
- Neurological diseases: Conditions like Parkinson’s interrupt the transmission of nerve signals between the brain and the penis.
- Heart disease: Plaque buildup in the arteries supplying the heart can also affect the arteries supplying the penis.
- High blood pressure: As with heart disease, restricted blood flow to the penis makes getting an erection difficult if not impossible.
- Kidney disease: Your kidneys play a part in hormone levels and circulation, so when these are out of whack, you may see changes in sexual ability and sex drive.
Diagnosing erectile dysfunction: You need a history and physical
The moral of the story? If you’re having sexual dysfunction, let this be the swift kick in the pants you needed to see your doctor. But don’t relegate this visit to a telemedicine provider. (Dang, right?)
“The danger with virtual visits for erectile dysfunction or general sexual dysfunction is that men need a history and a physical,” says Dr. Shoskes. “Invest in a clinic visit where a doctor can physically examine you to make sure there isn’t an underlying condition causing the ED.”
Think about it this way: The sooner you see a doctor, the sooner you can be back in action. And if your doctor uncovers disease-related sexual dysfunction, you may be saving more than your sex drive — you can potentially prevent premature disability or even death.
Avoid ordering sexual enhancement pills online
Dr. Shoskes also warns against ordering sexual enhancement pills over the internet: “The concern with ordering sex pills is that you may not know what’s in them,” he says.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate supplements. This lack of monitoring means an herbal supplement promising sexual enhancement benefits may be laced with other medications or substances.
Dr. Shoskes says some men are drawn to herbal supplements as an alternative for impotence medications. Their doctor may have told them they can’t take the medicines because of potentially fatal interactions with other medications they’re taking. And yet what arrives in the mail has the chemical equivalent of unsafe drugs.
(Don’t worry: If you aren’t eligible for impotence meds, there are treatments your urologist can offer, including injections or penis pumps that use vacuum suction to promote an erection.)
“Men ordering from a ‘Canadian pharmacy’ may think they are getting bona fide medicines at a reduced cost,” says Dr. Shoskes. “In most cases, the company just has a P.O. box in Canada, but the drugs are coming from countries that have little quality control when manufacturing medications. Not to mention, it’s illegal in Canada for a pharmacist to fill a U.S. prescription.”