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Wednesday, January 27, 1999 Published at 00:08 GMT


Doctors don't talk about impotence

Doctors often fail to ask elderly men about sex

Forget the controversy about Viagra: it seems that for many men medical help does not even get as far as discussing the anti-impotence wonder drug.

Researchers have found that doctors are failing to routinely ask patients at risk of impotence about their sexual function.

A survey, reported in the Postgraduate Medical Journal, identified 102 patients from three health clinics in Michigan, USA, who were at risk of impotence (erectile dysfunction).

The patients were either:

  • Diabetic;
  • Suffering from high blood pressure;
  • Over 65 years old;

Some patients had a combination of the risk factors.

The researchers found that doctors initiated discussion in only one in seven patients with high blood pressure, 18% with diabetes, and in under a third of those aged over 65.

More than one in four doctors, however, said that they had asked all their male patients about erectile dysfunction at medical check-ups, while almost half of the respondents claimed that they routinely asked 80% of their patients.

All the respondents agreed that sexual function is an important part of overall health.

No time to talk

[ image: Patients can be too embarrassed to talk about impotence]
Patients can be too embarrassed to talk about impotence
When asked why inquiries were not initiated, the most frequently cited reason was lack of time or a belief that the patient would talk about the issue if he wanted to.

However, evidence suggests that patients are unwilling to start discussions with their doctors because they are too embarrassed.

Instead, patients want discussions to be initiated by the doctor.

Study author Eric Perttula said: "Health professionals need to initiate discussions of sexual dysfunction.

"While erectile dysfunction is a mult-faceted problem, there are many therapies available today which may allow men to lead normal sex lives.

"Accurate and thorough history taking is one of the most important tools at our disposal for elucidating and treating erectile dysfunction."

Current estimates suggest around 40% of men over the age of 60, one in two diabetics, and one in four men taking drugs to lower blood pressure are affected by impotence.

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