Doctors do not advise that people test for erectile dysfunction (ED) at home using a self-test method. Although these tests may provide an initial indication, they are inaccurate and cannot diagnose the condition.

Various methods of self-testing for ED are available online, and there are many others that people have used in the past. However, experts strongly advise that anyone who thinks they may have ED speaks to a doctor for a correct diagnosis.

However, understanding the symptoms ED and knowing what signs to look for can benefit people who think they may have the condition.

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A person may have ED if they have a frequent inability to get or maintain an erection.

People with ED are unable to get or maintain an erection for sexual intercourse.

An erection occurs during arousal when the brain sends signals to increase blood flow to the penis. The penis swells with blood and becomes erect.

Sometimes, a person will be unable to get an erection, even while experiencing arousal. Other times, they might get an erection that is too soft or does not last long enough for satisfactory sexual intercourse.

Many people will experience this from time to time. Many factors can influence the ability to get an erection, such as tiredness or alcohol consumption.

However, people with ED will experience this most times they want to have sex.

While doctors do not advise that people test for ED at home, recognizing the signs can be a useful first step for those who think they may have ED. This might help them determine whether they should visit a doctor about their problem.

It is not always clear when someone has ED but some signs of ED to look out for include:

  • inability to get or maintain an erection on most occasions of sexual activity
  • low self-esteem
  • depression or anxiety
  • stress
  • relationship difficulties

Certain health conditions can also cause ED. These include:

People who are physically inactive and smoke are also more likely to have ED.

A doctor will usually diagnose ED after checking symptoms and medical histories. They might order blood tests to check for signs of an underlying medical problem.

Learn more about ED, including further information on the symptoms and causes here.

In the past, people used a range of self-testing methods for ED. However, doctors do not recommend these self-tests as they are highly inaccurate.

NPT Test

One form of ED home test that people used in the past was the Nocturnal Penile Tumescence (NPT) test.

The test involved sticking a roll of stamps around the penile shaft overnight. Men without ED will usually experience erections during their sleep. A man with ED likely will not.

An erection would break apart the roll of stamps around the penis. If the roll of stamps was still intact in the morning, it might indicate that the person did not have an erection during the night. However, this does not indicate that a person has ED.

Although there are no real risks or side effects, the NPT test is far from accurate, and doctors and medical professionals have discounted it.

Sexual health inventory for men (SHIM)

SHIM is probably the most accurate way to diagnose potential ED. It is a questionnaire that can provide a good indication of whether a person may or may not have ED. A doctor can carry this out in their office, but people can also do it at home.

You can find an example of the questionnaire here.

To receive an accurate diagnosis for ED, a person will need to see a doctor. A doctor will assess their medical history to identify whether they have any underlying conditions that can cause ED, such as heart disease. They may also take blood and urine samples to perform further tests.

Some people will experience ED due to emotional or psychological reasons. In these instances, people can still have an erection — and may break the stamps in the NPT test — but may still have ED.

A doctor may ask questions about mental health or stress to check for this. People experiencing psychological or emotional problems may benefit from psychotherapy. A doctor might also suggest medications such as antidepressants.

Many people experience ED.

Many people will experience not being able to get an erection or maintain an erection for sexual intercourse at some point. However, people with ED experience this problem frequently.

Doctors often find it challenging to determine whether ED, an underlying condition, or another factor is causing a person’s inability to have or maintain an erection.

Previously, the NPT stamp test was a way to check for signs of ED without going to a doctor. However, medical professionals have discounted this method because it is far too inaccurate. Instead, people can try a SHIM questionnaire as a form of initial self-assessment of ED.

If a person is concerned about ED, they should talk to a doctor or healthcare provider.