Aging & Health A to Z
Diagnosis & Tests
Although you may feel hesitant about talking to a healthcare professional about a sexual problem, remember that you are not alone. Your sexual health is an important aspect of your overall well-being and a critical aspect of your relationship with your partner. Keep in mind that sexuality changes with age, and that it is a normal part of aging to have to make adjustments to accommodate these changes.
An open and frank discussion with a trusted healthcare professional is the first step on the road to improved sexual health in your later years.
Your healthcare provider will begin by asking about your sexual problems. Try your best to answer the questions as clearly and honestly as you can. Remember that everything said during the appointment will be held in strict confidence permanently. If you are a woman, you will probably be asked whether you have had any of the following difficulties:
- pain during sexual intercourse
- lack of vaginal lubrication
- previous negative sexual experiences (rape, child abuse, domestic violence).
You will also be asked to list all the medications that you are taking, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter (non-prescription) medicines, and herbal or alternative products.
Other tests that may be needed include:
- a pelvic exam – if you have pain during intercourse, this will rule out problems such as tumors or a prolapsed uterus
- neurological tests to check your nerve responses
- lab tests – e.g., urine tests to check for infection or diabetes, and blood tests to check for diabetes and hormone levels
- general physical exam.
If you are a man and you think you may have erectile dysfunction, your healthcare professional will need to know whether:
- the problem stems from decreased sexual interest, difficulty in reaching orgasm, or other trouble
- there is a clear change from your previous function
- it started suddenly (psychological cause or side effect of a new medicine), gradually (an unidentified underlying disease), appears occasionally, or is worsening
- it is a short-term or long-term problem
- you have an erection when you wake up in the morning or during sleep
- you take prescription or non-prescription medicines
- you have stresses from financial, social, family relationship, or living situations.
- you have diabetes, neurological, heart or blood vessel diseases, mental problems, recent pelvic or abdominal surgery
- your sexual partner is willing and able
- you use alcohol or tobacco
- your hormone levels are normal (This will require blood tests.)
- general health, blood pressure, and responses of your penis are normal.
Your healthcare professional may order a trial of sildenafil (Viagra) or a related drug. Normally, these medications cause an erection, so if there is no response, you may have a blood vessel problem.
Updated: May 2012
Posted: May 2012