Sexual Health

Diagnosis & Tests

Although you may feel hesitant talking to a healthcare professional about a sexual health concern, 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 if you have a partner. Keep in mind that sexuality changes with age. It is a normal part of aging to make adjustments to adapt to these changes.

An open and honest 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 you say during the appointment will always be held in strict confidence. You will probably be asked whether you have had any of the following difficulties:

  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Lack of vaginal lubrication (if you identify as a woman)
  • Previous negative sexual experiences (such as rape, sexual abuse, or domestic violence)

You will also be asked to list all the medications you are taking. These include prescription medicines, 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. These can include urine tests to check for infections or diabetes, and blood tests to check for diabetes and hormone levels.
  • A general physical exam.

If you think you may have erectile dysfunction, your healthcare provider will need to know if:

  • The problem is caused by decreased sexual interest, difficulty in reaching orgasm, or other trouble.
  • There is a clear change from your previous functioning.
  • The problem started suddenly, or came on gradually. If it was sudden it could be a psychological cause or side effect of a new medicine. If it was gradual, it could be a sign of an unidentified underlying disease. Your provider will also want to know if your problem appears occasionally, or is worsening.
  • It is a short-term or long-term problem.
  • You have an erection during sleep or when you wake up in the morning.
  • 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 health concerns; or recent pelvic or abdominal surgery.
  • Your sexual partner is interested in and able to participate in sexual activity.
  • You use alcohol or tobacco.
  • Your hormone levels are normal. (This will require blood tests.)
  • Your general health, blood pressure, and responses of your penis are normal.

Your healthcare provider may order a trial of sildenafil (Viagra) or a related drug. Normally, these medications cause an erection, so if there is no response, this may mean that you have a blood vessel problem.

Updated: October 2017