- A blood test for ED? Maybe. Studies have promising results for blood tests for certain types of ED associated with heart disease.
- ED has multiple possible causes, and one test won’t tell you everything.
- If you’re at risk for ED due to heart disease, the best time to act is before you need a blood test for ED.
A blood test for ED may not be that far-fetched. Blood tests might, indeed, be able to tell you if you’re at risk for ED, but there’s a bit of a catch. It’s not really the ED these blood tests are looking for, and if you get a positive result, you’ve got more important problems. Here’s what you need to know.
How Would a Blood Test for ED Work?
To explain how we can test your blood for ED risk, we need to talk about endothelial dysfunction, a form of non-obstructive coronary artery disease. With this disease, the large blood vessels on the heart constrict instead of expand, which is painful and a prelude to more serious heart problems.
To determine whether you have this, you’ll generally have, among other tests, a blood test looking at three data points:
- Eosinophil count (EC): Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell. Generally you should have about 500 per microliter. Any more than that is a sign that your immune system is unusually active.
- Mean platelet volume (MPV): In the blood, platelets (also called thrombocytes) come from your bone marrow and help blood clot and heal wounds. The larger the platelet, the more reactive it is and another indicator of heart disease.
- Platelet count (PC): Similarly, the more platelets you have, the more of a sign it is that your body needs to heal more often.
A 2015 study, conducted on 230 men (130 with ED and 100 without), looked to see if these results could also predict ED. Sure enough, it found that elevated MPV and PC were associated with the problem and recommended further research as a possible marker.
Another study, conducted in 2017 using a small sample, found that an elevated EC is predictive of arteriogenic ED, where there’s insufficient arterial blood supply to the penis.
How Would This Blood Test Predict ED?
Some types of ED are caused by blood vessels constricting, so blood can’t get into the penis as effectively. ED drugs are vasodilators, which prevent a specific enzyme from breaking down nitric oxide, so blood vessels stay open.
Sildenafil, better known as Viagra, was originally designed to treat heart disease and high blood pressure. Under the brand name Revatio, it’s also used to treat pulmonary artery hypertension.
Because some types of ED are triggered by cardiovascular problems, running a blood test for ED might both tell you the cause and help patients spot more serious problems before they get worse.
What Does This Mean for Me?
First of all, if you have ED and there’s no obvious physical reason that should be happening, you should tell a doctor immediately. Bring the studies, explain what’s happening, and ask them to run a complete blood count test (CBC), which will include the values given above.
But keep in mind that right now, there’s no formal blood test for ED, just conclusions we can draw based on the data from other tests.
Secondly, familiarize yourself with the early signs of heart disease:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Pain, weakness, coldness or numbness in the extremities, jaw, neck, throat, and upper back.
If you’re experiencing any of those signs, talk to a doctor.
The study also speaks to the importance of lifestyle changes. Quitting smoking, consuming less alcohol, getting more exercise, managing stress, and eating healthier have positive effects across the body, including your cardiovascular system. Don’t wait until a doctor tells you to make changes; the earlier you do it, the less likely you are to have problems later.
Does a Positive Blood Test Guarantee I’ll Get ED?
This test will offer data points that are good to know, but it isn’t going to be the be-all and end-all of predicting ED. To begin with, ED has multiple different causes, with the cardiovascular system being just one possibility. Depression and anxiety, for example, are also common causes of ED.
Secondly, you can have heart disease and not have ED. While ED is a strong risk factor for heart disease, it’s not a one-to-one connection in either direction. If these tests match up with the study, your doctor is more likely to be concerned about your heart than your penis.
You may even get ED after your diagnosis, not due to problems with your heart but because of the emotional difficulty surrounding treatment.
Finally, ED is treatable, and you can anticipate possible ED problems well before a blood test tells you you should be worried.
How Can I Protect Myself From ED Related to Heart Disease?
There are steps you can take to minimize your risk. These include:
- Get a family history. While family history isn’t a perfect predictor of health problems, knowing what you may be predisposed towards can help you anticipate problems down the road.
- Stay current on your checkups. Getting annual exams and tests can help doctors spot potential issues well before they cause problems in bed or elsewhere. Make time to see a doctor, or ask for a telehealth consultation.
- Don’t be shy about talking to someone. One of the biggest challenges with ED is that it can be difficult to speak to a doctor about such a personal problem. But being open with your doctor can help not only with ED but with a range of problems and risks.
- Cut back on alcohol, smoking, and other system stresses. While a small amount of alcohol, up to a drink a day, is seen as fine and might even have some benefits, smoking and most other drugs aren’t going to help.
- Be active thirty to sixty minutes a day. Exercise, like a brisk walk every morning, helps you keep your weight under control and reduces your chances of getting other conditions that might cause ED, like diabetes or high blood pressure.
- Switch up your diet. Look for foods high in fiber, whole grains, lean proteins like chicken, and limited amounts of healthy fats. Reduce salty foods, sugar, processed carbohydrates, and saturated fat from your meals.
Remember you’re your own best advocate
Nobody knows your body, or what’s happening with it, better than you. So be open, honest, and clear to get the treatment you need, and stay informed about the latest in men’s health by following the eDrugstore blog.
For the most effective help available for ED, check out our medication guide, then speak to one of our U.S.-licensed physicians to get your prescription. With eDrugstore, virtual health visits and shipping are always free.
Dan is a long-time freelance writer focusing on technology, science, health, and medicine, with a lifelong interest in physics, biology, and medicine. His work has taken a particular focus on scientific studies “beyond the headlines,” reading the study to more closely examine the results.