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What is an ED test?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
There are numerous tests that can help you and your doctor figure out what is causing your erectile dysfunction. The nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT) test is a common erectile dysfunction (ED) test. But there is no one single test for ED. A doctor will use an integrated set of measures to determine if a man has ED, and if so, what may be causing it. The NPT is a simple self-administered test carried out over three nights: a man attaches postage stamps around his penis, and in the morning checks to see if the seal has been broken; if it has, it's an indication that he may not have a physical cause for his ED. Another test is penile ultrasound, which can help determine if a cardiovascular problem may be causing ED. A third test that may be used in some cases is the intracavernosal injection test, in which a compound is injected in the penis that causes an erection; this is more often used when there is a trauma, such as broken pelvis from a car or motorcycle accident. Talk to your doctor to learn more about these and other tests that can be done to determine the cause of your ED.
To check whether you have any health conditions that can cause erectile dysfunction (ED), your doctor will perform a thorough physical workup that includes a blood pressure measurement; examination of your penis and testicles; and blood and urine tests to check for anemia (low red blood cell count), high blood cholesterol, diabetes, low testosterone and a liver or kidney problem. The doctor may also test your bulbocavernosus reflex, which is a fancy way of saying that the head of your penis will be squeezed to test nerve function.

If the physical exam and lab tests show that you have a health condition that decreases blood flow to the penis or interferes with nerve signals that enable arousal and erection, the doctor may order a penile ultrasound scan to image blood vessels and tissues in the penis. The test can show whether blood vessels have become leaky or are narrowed because of cardiovascular (heart and vessel) disease, as well as whether there is hardened scar tissue in the penis (a condition known as “Peyronie’s disease”) that can interfere with an erection.

The doctor may also want to determine whether you have erections in your sleep with the Nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT) test. Men typically have three to five erections while sleeping, and if you aren’t, it may be due to a health condition or medication that decreases blood flow to the penis or interferes with nerve signals that enable arousal and erection. If you experience erections in your sleep or upon awakening, your erectile dysfunction (ED) may be caused by stress or depression.

Whatever the cause of your difficulty in getting or maintaining an erection, your doctor can recommend treatment that will help.
 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.