Routinely asking patients if they have any sexual health concerns could give clinicians an early warning of other health problems, according to the British Society for Sexual Medicine (BSSM).
The question could also help clinicians approach social issues including relationship breakdown, experts have said. It would not put any further financial pressure on health services and correct diagnosis could help save money in the long term, according to the BSSM.
Reducing the instances where patients are inappropriately prescribed sometimes expensive drugs that do not tackle their problem could save money, said sexual health specialist Dr Geoff Hackett, from the Good Hope Hospital in Birmingham.
Routinely asking men about erectile dysfunction could help identify those with potential heart problems and it is already recognised as an early warning of coronary artery issues, Dr Hackett said at a BSSM briefing in central London.
Low testosterone also increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, he said, adding that diagnosing erectile dysfunction was seen as an important window for intervening.
The BSSM also stressed that healthy sexual function is important to a person’s general wellbeing and undiagnosed problems could lead to conditions such as depression.
Dr Hackett, who has worked in the field for more than 20 years, said: “A lot of women and men with sexual problems do present with depression and are often treated inappropriately”.