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Updated 14 August 2022 | Approved By

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Erectile Dysfunction (Impotence) – Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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What is Impotence?

Impotence (also known as erectile dysfunction) describes the inability or difficulty maintaining an erection during sexual activities. Many biological men with erectile dysfunction find it embarrassing to discuss these problems with their doctor. Being open with your GP is crucial for providing assistance and treatment to resolve these problems. According to the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, around 61% of men over 45 experience impotence [1]. Over time, men develop an increased chance of developing erectile dysfunction. Having occasional impotence is common for many men. Several reasons for temporary erectile dysfunction include fatigue, not eating enough, and stress. This can affect people of all ages. However, impotence becomes more troublesome if it regularly impacts your sex life. However, impotence/erectile dysfunction should not be confused with related problems, such as premature ejaculation and loss of libido (i.e. sex drive). It’s important to talk to your GP immediately if you are experiencing these issues.

Impotence Symptoms

The symptoms of impotence (erectile dysfunction) are generally consistent. Those who experience this problem include:
  • Difficulty getting an erection during sexual activities
  • Difficulty keeping an erection during sexual activities
  • Unable to achieve an erection
  • Reduced sex drive


Causes of Impotence

Problems with erection performance are the cause of impotence. Erections are caused by increased blood flow into the corpora cavernosa, which are two columns of spongy tissue inside the penis [2]. Any hurdles that reduce or prevent blood flow into these regions of the penis make it harder to achieve erections. There are many reasons for impotence. Below is a list of health conditions and/or problems that may increase or lead to this condition [1][2].
  • Being diabetic
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Dyslipidaemia (having high levels of fat in the blood)
  • Depression
  • Being obese or overweight
  • Side effects from specific medications
  • Hormonal problems and imbalances
  • Spinal injury
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Other conditions (e.g. cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurological conditions, etc.)


Tests and Diagnosis

There are numerous reasons for impotence. Being open with your GP is essential for determining the underlying cause of your inability to achieve or maintain an erection. It can be challenging for men to discuss their sexual health with others. However, the GPs at 24-7 Medcare are qualified physicians committed to helping you improve your sexual performance in privacy. There are no specific tests to diagnose erectile dysfunction. However, some assessments can help guide your management (some will be listed below). As a result, personal information regarding your sexual activities may be required to help determine what treatment may be able to help. Questions that your GP may ask you include:
  • Are you getting overnight erections?
  • How long do your erections last?
  • When did your problems first start?
  • How is your sex life?
  • Do you use any contraception? If so, what do you use?

Physical Assessment

Your GP may perform a physical assessment to determine the potential contributing factors to your erectile dysfunction [1]. Examinations, such as blood pressure, waist circumference and the physical appearance of your genitalia, may be necessary. Identifying risk factors that are contributing to impotence is needed for receiving adequate treatment.

Blood Tests

Your GP may also refer you for a blood test to identify any causes or risk factors for your impotence [1]. Samples of your blood will be taken to the laboratory for further analysis. Depending on your circumstances, your GP may want to test your blood for morning testosterone, blood glucose and/or lipids. These findings will decide the potential causes of your problems, including hormonal imbalance or cardiovascular conditions (e.g. diabetes, high cholesterol, etc.).


Although not always necessary, your GP may refer you for a doppler ultrasound of your genitalia [1]. Ultrasound uses high-frequency and invisible sound waves to view the structures inside the body. The Doppler ultrasound, in particular, can identify abnormal changes in the blood flow around the penis [2].

Impotence Treatment

Treatments may be recommended depending on your GP’s findings and tests to help with your condition. Examples of a potential treatment for erectile dysfunction include:

Lifestyle Changes

Cardiovascular problems, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, are known risk factors for erectile dysfunction [3]. Unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as poor diet and alcohol, elevate the risk of developing chronic conditions. The first line of treatment will be to control or modify these habits. Your GP may refer you to other health professionals, such as dietitians and exercise physiologists, to help manage these lifestyle habits.


Medications and supplements may be prescribed or recommended by your GP to help manage impotence. Taking them may help increase the quality of your erections during sexual activity [1]. Always use your medications as directed by your GP and/or pharmacist.

Sexual Health Psychologist

Psychological factors, such as depression and anxiety, are also common causes of erectile dysfunction. Counselling from specially trained health professionals can help address underlying stresses impacting your sexual health [2]. Joint sessions with your partner may also be beneficial under some circumstances.


A referral to a urologist (a men’s reproductive health specialist) may also be required for further testing and other specialised forms of treatment.


Recovery from impotence will vary depending on your age, health and the underlying cause of your condition. Multiple treatments can help improve your erection quality during sex, including counselling and medication [2]. Speaking to your GP about erectile dysfunction is essential for seeking early treatment and avoiding long-term complications.


Erectile dysfunction can cause tension between the affected individual and their partner. Over time, this can create emotional and sexual strain within the relationship. It can also impact the psychological and mental well-being of the affected person. Additionally, chronic conditions associated with impotence, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, can affect the long-term health of the affected person. Seeking advice and treatment with your GP should be your first-line point of contact if you are experiencing problems with your sexual performance.

Receiving quality care from highly experienced doctors is essential for a prompt diagnosis and receiving the correct medical treatment. With 24-7 MedCare, you can experience telemedicine from the convenience of your own home. Our friendly online doctors will be available 24/7 for a consultation, anytime and anywhere in Australia.

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  1. Shoshany, O., Katz, D. J., & Love, C. (2017). Much more than prescribing a pill-assessment and treatment of erectile dysfunction by the general practitioner. Australian Family Physician, 46(9), 634-639.
  2. Sooriyamoorthy T, Leslie SW. Erectile Dysfunction. [Updated 2022 Mar 26]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from:
  3. Montorsi F, Briganti A, Salonia A, Rigatti P, Margonato A, Macchi A, Galli S, Ravagnani PM, Montorsi P. Erectile dysfunction prevalence, time of onset and association with risk factors in 300 consecutive patients with acute chest pain and angiographically documented coronary artery disease. Eur Urol. 2003 Sep;44(3):360-4; discussion 364-5.