What does an erectile dysfunction test kit check for?
The erectile dysfunction (ED) test kit checks for abnormal indicators of common potential underlying causes of ED.
Lipid levels including cholesterol
High lipid levels (especially cholesterol) in the blood can lead to a condition known as atherosclerosis, which causes narrowing of the blood vessels and increases your risk of cardiovascular problems, but could also cause problems with getting an erection.
The main job of the thyroid gland is to produce the hormones T3 and T4 (thyroxine). These hormones need to be produced in the right amounts to keep you healthy, as they control a wide range of functions in your body, like your metabolism (the way your body turns what you eat and drink into energy), your body temperature and the use of fat and glucose stores.
If you have too much thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism), or too little (hypothyroidism), it can make you unwell and should be treated to correct the levels.
This usually involves medication in the form of a tablet prescribed by your doctor. ED is usually associated with hyperthyroidism, but can happen in both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Our test kit measures the levels of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and T4 in your blood, but not T3. A diagnosis can be made based on these 2 hormones alone.
Total testosterone levels
Testosterone is the main sex hormone in males. Its function in men is to maintain sex drive, improve muscle strength and mass, keep a healthy bone density and a normal body hair pattern.
The most common symptoms of testosterone deficiency are erectile dysfunction and low sexual desire. Other symptoms you could have are loss of body hair, reduced beard growth, changes in mood, reduced concentration or motivation, and fatigue.
The test measures levels of PSA (prostate specific antigen), a protein produced by the prostate gland (which sits underneath the bladder in men). PSA is mainly released in semen and helps to ease the path for sperm so they can fertilise an egg.
A small amount of PSA is present in the blood of men with healthy prostates.
High levels of PSA could be due to enlargement or disease of the prostate, including prostatitis (inflammation of the gland), benign prostatic hypertrophy (enlargement of the prostate) and prostate cancer. It can also be high if you have recently ejaculated, had any trauma or stimulation of the prostate, or vigorously exercised just before taking the blood test.
PSA levels are often used to screen for cancer, but because so many other non-cancerous conditions can give you a high PSA, an abnormal result will not tell you whether you have prostate cancer or not.
As part of the ED test kit, this test for PSA levels is usually only recommended for men who have symptoms like:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Recent change in the flow of urine
- Slow to start when urinating
- Dribbling after you have finished urinating
- Passing urine more often at night
If you get a high PSA result, you should speak to your GP as soon as possible. They may decide to either repeat the test, or refer you to a specialist to determine the cause of your abnormal blood result. If you get a normal result but have symptoms which might be caused by prostate disease, or are at high risk of prostate cancer (for example because a close family member has had it), you should speak to your GP anyway because of a small chance of the test not picking up early disease.
Prolactin is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland (which sits under the brain). It has no established function in men, but high levels can lead to ED.
The other symptoms of high prolactin can include loss of sexual desire (libido), a reduction in the amount of semen you produce or occasionally breast enlargement and lactation. You may also notice persistent headaches and changes in your vision such as tunnel vision.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, eye problems and can lead to symptoms like erectile dysfunction.
Other causes of erectile dysfunction
The test does not cover everything that could cause erectile dysfunction (ED).
Other causes include:
- Previous pelvic surgery or urinary tract surgery
- Spinal cord trauma or disease
- Problems with the anatomy of the penis
- Nerve disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis
- Chronic kidney disease
- Hormonal conditions such as Cushing’s syndrome
- Mental health problems such as low mood and anxiety
- Medications you may be taking, including drugs like finasteride (Propecia) and antidepressants and beta-blockers
You can read more about causes of erectile dysfunction here.
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