Sex is one of the most pleasurable activities a man can experience. However, when something isn’t right it can lead to men feeling confused, frustrated, and even embarrassed. The male penis is a crucial piece of the intimacy puzzle and without it functioning properly, sex can become a struggle at best.
Sexual dysfunction impacts millions of men worldwide. One of the most prominent sexual dysfunctions is erectile dysfunction (ED), a condition in which men are unable to maintain an erection for long enough to have satisfactory sex. Men with ED may feel isolated in their struggle, but sexual dysfunction is more common than most people realize; ED affects at least 30 million men in the US alone.
Chart from our article on: Penis Pump: What are They and How to Use Them
If you’ve noticed problems with your erectile function, it’s only natural to want answers. For men experiencing symptoms of erectile dysfunction, self-tests can be an effective tool for further examination. This article explores ED self-tests, how to perform them, and the steps you can take after getting your results.
- Erectile Dysfunction (ED): A condition where men can't maintain an erection for satisfactory sex, affecting over 30 million men in the US.
- ED Self-Tests: Tests men can perform to check for ED, giving insights into potential physical or psychological causes.
- Types of Self-Tests: Includes Nocturnal Penile Tumescence (NPT), urine tests, Sexual Health Inventory for Men (SHIM), and Penile Plethysmograph Testing (PPG).
- Results Interpretation: If the test indicates physical ED, it might be due to health issues or habits, while a non-physical result points towards psychological causes.
- Complex Cases: Both physical and psychological factors can contribute to ED, making diagnosis more challenging.
- Next Steps: Regardless of test outcomes, consulting a medical professional is crucial for proper diagnosis and treatment.
What is an ED self-test?
An ED self-test is a test for erectile dysfunction that a man can do himself. The tests may indicate the root of an individual's ED, providing insight into whether the cause of erectile dysfunction is physical or psychological.
It’s important to remember that Erectile Dysfunction can only be diagnosed by a qualified professional.
While an ED self-test may offer useful insights, a medical professional should always be consulted before any suspicions can be confirmed.
Types of ED self-tests
There are a few different types of ED self-tests, in this section of the article we’ve highlighted some of the most popular options.
Nocturnal Penile Tumescence (NPT)
It’s thought that healthy men have a series of erections during their sleep (approximately 3 to 5 each night). NPT tests, also referred to as stamp or rigidity tests, are used to check whether an individual experiences erections while asleep.
Given that ED can be caused by both physical and psychological factors, understanding the cause of an individual's ED may prove challenging. However, NPT testing is thought to be advantageous in differentiating between organic and psychogenic forms of ED.
It is also considered a non-invasive testing method.
Despite the benefits of NPT testing, some question marks do exist. There’s uncertainty surrounding the role of anxiety state and sleeping difficulties (including sleep apnea) in NPT, and how they may impact the effectiveness of the testing method.
How NPT tests are carried out
NPT tests involve placing a device on the penis to measure erectile function while the subject is asleep. Application methods can vary between modern and slightly more primitive variations of the test.
For example, advanced NPT tests can make use of electronic devices to offer more insight into erectile behavior. These electronic tests are made up of rings, with one being placed around the penises tip and the other around its base. The devices are able to measure how many erections have occurred, how long they lasted, and score their rigidity.
NPT stamp tests may be considered a more basic version of the test.
This is because rather than using electronic signals the penis is surrounded by stamps. If the stamps break it’s an indication that erections have occurred during sleep.
Urine tests can be completed at home and sent away to be analyzed. Testing an individual's urine may not explicitly state whether they have erectile dysfunction. However, a lab may examine urine for signs of contributing factors or health problems that could cause ED.
How Urine Tests are carried out
Urine tests require an individual to provide a sample of urine which is then analyzed. There are several types of urine tests, which include the following:
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Urine is examined by a professional for abnormalities that can be noticed visually.
Examples of such abnormalities can include changes in color, texture and smell.
This type of test involves examining urine under a microscope and can detect the presence of blood cells and bacteria.
This test alone may not be indicative of an issue or illness but can provide evidence in light of other tests.
A piece of plastic (known as a dipstick) containing chemical strips is placed into the urine.
If the dipstick detects the presence of certain substances or abnormal levels, the strips will change color to indicate findings.
Sexual health inventory for Men (SHIM)
The SHIM is a questionnaire that can be used to assess whether an individual is showing signs of erectile dysfunction. The test is also commonly used within urology clinics to assess the effectiveness of treatment for ED. The test involves answering questions based on the physical state of an individual's erections as well as their satisfaction after sex.
How SHIM tests are carried out
Individuals are faced with questions based on their sexual experiences over the past 6 months. They are expected to select a single answer to each question. Each answer is allocated a score and once the questionnaire is complete, the scores are added up to rate a person’s erectile function.
The higher a person scores, the less likely they are to experience ED.
With scores of 22-25 indicating no signs of ED. Conversely, the lowest scores of between 1-7 indicate severe erectile dysfunction. The test is considered a useful tool for screening and quantifying ED in patients who present with other urological issues.
Penile Plethysmograph Testing (PPG)
Penile plethysmograph testing involves exposing an individual to sexually arousing stimuli and measuring their erectile response. The material used to prompt a sexual response may include graphic images or erotic sounds.
It’s been noted that there is strong support for the use of PPG in clinical and legal settings, with the testing method providing an objective measure for gauging changes in sexual arousal in response to treatment.
How Penile Plethysmograph Tests are carried out
This type of test is carried out by placing a device that captures pressure around an individual's penis. An individual then consumes sexually stimulating content which could be in the form of imagery, video, or audio. The penile device is used to gauge an individual's sexual response (via erectile activity) to different sexual stimuli.
Preparing for any outcome
As with other health tests, individuals may find themselves anxiously awaiting the results of their ED self-test.
It’s important to be prepared for any outcome and understand the appropriate steps to take.
In this section of the article, we take a look at what to do after getting the results of your test.
The test shows I have physical ED, what can I do?
If you have physical ED, the condition is likely to be the by-product of a physical characteristic, illness or habit. The cause of physical ED may be health-related for example, cardiovascular disease is considered a significant risk factor for erectile dysfunction. Research states that an individual's lifestyle choices such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and activity levels can also lead to physical ED.
Individuals with physical ED should seek advice from their doctor on the next steps. They will be able to advise on the appropriate action to take based on medical history, current health conditions and lifestyle habits. Treatment options for ED may range from lifestyle changes to oral medication.
The test shows I don’t have physical ED, what can I do?
If you don’t have physical ED, the cause of the dysfunction is likely to be psychological. Causes of psychological ED can include mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety. Research also suggests that individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder may be at higher risk of erectile dysfunction.
If there’s an indication that ED could be a result of psychological factors, the first step is to consult a medical professional.
They may be able to recommend further erectile tests, and psychological assessments or discuss treatment options for any known psychological issues. Treatments for psychogenic ED include anxiety reduction, desensitization, and pharmacological options.
Combinations of physical and psychological factors
Complex cases of erectile dysfunction could exist whereby physical and psychological risk factors present themselves, or even trigger one another. For example, research states that individuals with obesity may be up to 55% more likely to develop depression, while depressed individuals may be at a 58% higher risk of becoming obese. Obesity is a physical factor frequently associated with ED, while research states that depression also may increase an individual's risk of developing sexual dysfunction.
Physical and psychological ED risk factors may create a chicken-and-egg scenario as detailed in the example above.
It may be unclear whether ED is a result of an individual's physical characteristics, psychological factors, or a combination of both. In these circumstances, it’s important to understand the specific cause of an individual’s ED. As with other outcomes, guidance from a medical professional is crucial and a test that can categorize the root cause of ED may be recommended.
Erectile dysfunction is one of the most common sexual dysfunctions in men. ED self-tests can help individuals to confirm their suspicions surrounding symptoms. There are numerous types of self-tests which include NPT, urine, SHIM, and PPG tests. Self-tests may indicate whether ED is a result of physical or psychological factors. In more complex cases, physical and psychological ED risk factors may be present.
Regardless of the outcome of your test, consulting a medical professional is key for determining the required steps for alleviating ED symptoms.
The information in this article is intended to be informative but cannot be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult a medical professional for sexual and general health-related matters.
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