Erection problems are an early warning sign of a heart attack, an expert has claimed.
Dr Geoffrey Hackett, a urologist from the Good Hope Hospital in Birmingham, said he regularly saw men referred to him with erection problems after a heart attack, often having developed erectile dysfunction (ED) years earlier.
Dr Hackett wrote in a letter published in the online edition of the British Medical Journal, "Erectile dysfunction is the manifestation of vascular disease in smaller arteries and gives a two-to-three-year early warning of myocardial infarction (heart attack)."
ED is associated with a 50% additional risk of coronary events, and in men with type 2 diabetes it has proved to be a better predictor of heart risk than high blood pressure, according to Dr Hackett.
He added: "Despite this evidence we don't even screen for erectile dysfunction or low testosterone in type 2 diabetes or patients with coronary heart disease.
"We prescribe drugs for coronary heart disease that make erectile dysfunction worse, even though there are drug treatments as effective which improve it."
He believes too many doctors are ignoring the risk as they are too embarrassed to talk about ED.