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The role of the sexual partner in managing erectile dysfunction

Key Points

  • Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common sexual health problem affecting >150 million men worldwide

  • ED is a shared sexual disorder for both the men with ED and their sexual partners, but this fact is not well understood by affected couples or treating physicians

  • The relationship between the patient with ED and his sexual partner should be comprehensively assessed

  • Lack of active involvement of the partner in current medical treatment might contribute to a low recovery from, and unsatisfactory rehabilitation of ED

  • An indispensable role for the sexual partner exists in the assessment of, diagnosis, education, counselling, and choice of therapy for ED

  • The sexual-partner-engaged approach might assist couples affected by ED to achieve a high-quality sex life and social life


Erectile dysfunction (ED) has detrimental social and psychological effects on the quality of life of affected individuals and their sexual partners. When medical intervention is introduced to treat ED, physicians, nurses, and clinical educators should consider this disorder as a shared health problem for the men with ED and their sexual partners. New therapeutics such as phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors improve erectile function in affected men, and the ultimate goal of medical intervention for ED should be achievement of a satisfactory sex life for couples engaged sexual relationships. Sexual partners of men with ED have an important role in its management and improvement in quality of sex life; therefore, they should be involved in assessment of, diagnosis, education, counselling, and choice of therapy. This sexual- partner-engaged approach might assist treatment and rehabilitation, helping the couples affected by ED to achieve a high-quality sex life.

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Figure 1: The sexual-partner-engaged approach for the treatment and rehabilitation of patients with erectile dysfunction (ED).


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H.-J. L. researched data for and edited the article before submission, H.-J. L. and T. G. wrote the article, and H.-J. L., T. G. and R. W. discussed content, for the article.

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Correspondence to Hongjun Li.

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Li, H., Gao, T. & Wang, R. The role of the sexual partner in managing erectile dysfunction. Nat Rev Urol 13, 168–177 (2016).

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