Apr 02, 2019
Justin was 24 years old and in his sexual prime. Or at least, he thought he should be. The last few times he wanted to have intercourse, his erection was rather…lackluster. It wasn’t firm at all, and while his partner didn’t say anything, he was sure his performance disappointed them both.
“I’m too young for this,” he thought. He had seen commercials for erectile dysfunction drugs on television, but the guys always seemed so much older. This type of stuff didn’t happen to younger guys, did it?
He didn’t go to the doctor often, and he couldn’t imagine calling for an appointment for this specific problem. But as time went on, his erections became less predictable. He knew he had to do something.
While surfing online, he found some websites that offered erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs that could be discreetly delivered to his home. He could talk to a doctor through video chat and get a prescription easily. Was this the route to take?
In this post, we’ll consider Justin’s question.
What is telehealth?
Technology has brought people closer together in ways we might not have imagined thirty years ago. And this includes doctors and patients, who can now use the internet to communicate through telehealth (sometimes called telemedicine). Patients can email their doctor, send relevant pictures, and have videoconference discussions of symptoms and treatment options without actually getting together in an office or exam room. These communications can take place on desktop and laptop computers, tablets, and smartphones. In some cases, patients can receive prescriptions through telehealth services.
Why might men with ED consider telehealth?
“Seeing” a doctor online is convenient. Patients can do so in the comfort of their own homes, without the hassle of traveling there, finding parking, or taking time off of work. In addition, many men feel awkward or embarrassed about sexual health problems. Telehealth might offer a degree of privacy, as long as the connection is secure.
Why should men with ED see a doctor in person?
While telehealth has its advantages, it is not a substitute for seeing a doctor in person. For men with ED, this is especially important.
ED is often a sign of more serious health conditions, like diabetes and heart disease. Sometimes, the links are complicated. For example, erections might be impaired by hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), low testosterone levels, or autonomic neuropathy (a form of nerve damage). To learn more about these issues, a physical exam is essential. Lab tests may also be ordered, and these can only be done during a traditional office visit.
In fact, ED diagnosis guidelines issued by the American Urological Association (AUA) stress the importance of a physical exam:
Men presenting with symptoms of ED should undergo a thorough medical, sexual, and psychosocial history; a physical examination; and selective laboratory testing.
In other words, a telehealth doctor may be able to prescribe an ED medication, but he or she will not have all the information necessary to determine exactly why a man has ED.
A comprehensive physical exam can reveal any underlying medical conditions, and treatment can begin immediately. Erections can improve, and the risk of any further complications can be reduced.
Dr. Hossein Sadeghi-Nejad, President of the Sexual Medicine Society of North America (the organization behind SexHealthMatters.org) contributed to the AUA guidelines on ED. In an interview with Business Insider, he pointed out that while not all men with ED are at risk for more serious health conditions, “but some are.”
“To lose that window of opportunity to address the bigger problem would be a pity," Dr. Sadeghi-Nejad added.
Some men might find it difficult to work up the nerve and mention ED to the doctor. But it’s worth making the call. It can lead to more satisfying, more confident sex. And it can help you and your doctor address any bigger health concerns that need attention.
Check out these links to learn more:
Erectile Dysfunction (overview of ED, including causes and treatments)
American Urological Association
“Erectile Dysfunction: AUA Guideline (2018)”
“Hot startups like Hims and Roman are marketing Viagra to young men online, but their approach raises 2 big questions”
(February 25, 2019)
“TeleHealth Pros and Cons”
(January 11, 2019)
“How Do Certain Diseases Lead to Erectile Dysfunction?”
(January 12, 2016)