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Can an ED Ultrasound Diagnose Erectile Dysfunction?

Katelyn Hagerty

Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP

Written by Nicholas Gibson

Updated 01/28/2023

If you’re wondering whether an ED ultrasound can detect erectile dysfunction, you’ve come to the right place.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common problem for men of all ages. It can make getting and keeping an erection difficult, affecting your ability to enjoy sexual intercourse and develop a close relationship with your partner.

Research suggests an estimated 30 million men are affected by some degree of ED in the United States alone. In other words, ED is far from uncommon, even in younger men and those without chronic health conditions.

Various factors can play a role in ED, one of which is the degree of blood flow to the erectile tissue inside your penis.

If you have ED and your healthcare provider thinks blood flow is to blame, they may recommend a special ultrasound evaluation called a Doppler ultrasound to measure the level of blood flow in your penis.

This type of ED ultrasound is a helpful diagnostic tool, but it doesn’t always explain everything about why you have erectile dysfunction.

Below, we’ll discuss why erectile dysfunction can occur, as well as how healthy blood flow to your penis and within your penile tissue is involved.

We’ll also explain how a Doppler ultrasound (or ED ultrasound) works, as well as how it may be used with other techniques to diagnose erectile dysfunction.

Finally, we’ll talk about treatments for erectile dysfunction, from medications to healthy daily habits to techniques for relieving stress.

Healthy, consistent erections rely on a combination of sexual stimulation and blood flow to your penis.

When you’re sexually aroused, blood flows through your blood vessels and into chambers of tissue inside your penis called the corpora cavernosa. As blood pressure inside your penis increases, it becomes firmer, resulting in an erection.

A variety of physical and mental health issues can cause erectile dysfunction or contribute to its symptoms. These include:

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Poor cardiac function and general heart health

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

  • Atherosclerosis (clogged arteries)

  • Injury to your penis, spine or pelvis

  • Chronic kidney disease (CKD)

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)

Many of these conditions make getting and maintaining an erection more challenging by limiting blood flow to your penis. Unhealthy habits, such as smoking or being overweight, can also have a negative effect on blood flow within your body.

Sometimes, ED can occur as a result of psychological issues, such as ongoing stress or sexual performance anxiety. Even certain medications can cause or contribute to ED.

Our guide to the causes of erectile dysfunction goes into more detail about these risk factors, as well as what you can do to identify and treat them.

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If you think you might have erectile dysfunction, the best thing that you can do is talk to your healthcare provider.

Most of the time, ED can be diagnosed with a discussion and a clinical evaluation and physical exam. During exam sessions, your healthcare provider might ask about your symptoms, your confidence in your ability to successfully get an erection, your sex drive and your general sexual functioning.

They may also ask you about your general health, daily habits and any medications you’re currently taking or have used in the past.

If your provider needs more information, they may perform a physical exam. This could involve looking for symptoms of a hormonal problem, checking your penis to see if it’s totally sensitive, looking for signs of Peyronie’s disease or checking for poor blood circulation.

If your healthcare provider thinks poor blood flow is the most likely cause of your ED, they may suggest a Doppler ultrasound.

Sometimes referred to as an ED ultrasound, this test involves holding a handheld ultrasound machine over your penis to assess blood circulation.

The ultrasound system used for this test will produce a computerized image of the blood vessels that flow to your penis. Medication will likely be injected into your penis before this type of test to ensure you can maintain a consistent erection while the procedural ultrasound is performed.

Your healthcare provider may also ask you to stop taking medications or using substances that can affect blood flow, such as nicotine, before the ultrasound.

Using a Doppler ultrasound, your provider may be able to detect:

  • Blockages in blood flow that make getting an erection difficult

  • Excessive narrowing or damage to the blood vessels inside your penis

This information can help your healthcare provider accurately diagnose you with ED and work out the most effective treatment for your needs.

The ultrasound experience is generally straightforward. Most of the time, the test takes 30 to 60 minutes to complete, during which you’ll lie down on a soft, comfortable table in your healthcare provider’s office.

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Performing a penile or pelvic ultrasound can help detect blood flow issues that could stop you from being able to get and maintain an erection. However, it’s not the only option available for diagnosing ED.

Depending on your symptoms, medical history and other factors, your healthcare provider might also suggest one or several of the following tests:

  • Blood testing. You may be asked to provide a blood sample. This type of test can often identify potential causes of ED, such as clogged arteries, chronic kidney disease, diabetes and hormonal issues that can affect your sexual drive and function, like low testosterone.

  • Injection testing. Your healthcare provider may ask if it’s alright to inject medication into your penis to produce an erection. This type of test can help your healthcare provider to identify the severity of your ED and its potential cause.

  • Nocturnal erection test. Your healthcare provider may ask you to wear a device while you sleep to check for erections during the night. This type of test can detect nighttime erections (aka “morning wood”).

Erectile dysfunction is almost always treatable. Depending on the severity of your ED and the suspected cause, your healthcare provider may recommend taking ED medication, modifying your habits and lifestyle or other options for improving your erectile function. 

Erectile dysfunction medications, or PDE5 inhibitors, work by expanding your blood vessels to increase blood flow to the tissue inside your penis. These medications are usually taken about one hour before sex.

Common ED medications include sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra®), tadalafil (Cialis®), vardenafil (Levitra®) and avanafil (Stendra®). 

We offer several erectile dysfunction medications online, following a consultation with a licensed healthcare provider who’ll determine if a prescription is appropriate. 

Besides using medication, erectile dysfunction often improves with good habits. Things like quitting smoking, eating a balanced diet, keeping yourself physically active, limiting your alcohol intake and avoiding illicit drugs can all have a positive impact on your erectile function.

Our guide to maintaining an erection naturally goes into more detail about how you can improve your erections through a healthy lifestyle. 

If you have severe ED that doesn’t improve with medication and/or lifestyle changes alone, your healthcare provider might recommend other options. These may include:

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If you have erectile dysfunction, your healthcare provider may use a Doppler ultrasound test as part of the diagnostic process.

This type of test measures blood flow into your penis, making it excellent for identifying physical health issues that can cause or contribute to ED.

To treat ED, your healthcare provider might prescribe medication, suggest changes you can make, like lowering your body mass, or recommend other approaches to improve your sexual function.

Worried you might have ED? Take part in an ED consultation online to learn more about your treatment options, including proven medications that can improve your sexual performance and help you to enjoy more confidence in bed.

6 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Definition & Facts for Erectile Dysfunction. (2017, July). Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/definition-facts
  2. Panchatsharam, P.K., Durland, J. & Zito, P.M. (2022, May 8). Physiology, Erection. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513278/
  3. Symptoms & Causes of Erectile Dysfunction. (2017, July). Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/symptoms-causes
  4. Diagnosis of Erectile Dysfunction. (2017, July). Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/diagnosis
  5. Doppler Ultrasound. (2020, December 15). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/doppler-ultrasound/
  6. Treatment for Erectile Dysfunction. (2017, July). Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/treatment
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

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