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    Mayo Clinic Minute: Why online treatments for erectile dysfunction could be harmful

Erectile dysfunction affects millions of men, but embarrassment and an unwillingness to talk to their health care providers about it has led many men to seek treatment from questionable sources. Dr. Tobias Kohler, a Mayo Clinic urologist and sexual health expert, says online sources for treatment and so-called "natural supplements" could cause more harm to the health of these men.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

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It's more common than you think.

"About half of all men above age 50 have it," Dr. Kohler says.

Still, nobody wants to talk about their erectile dysfunction.

"It's often a sign of underlying medical problems – heart disease, depression, diabetes, etc.," Dr. Kohler says.

He says there are excellent treatments available, and most are covered by health insurance plans. But too many men are turning to questionable websites and so-called "natural supplements" because they're too embarrassed to ask their health care providers for help.

But that could be making things worse.

"Imagine if you're going online, you're answering a few questions and then they're giving you these medications when, in fact, it's not even safe for you to have sex because you have an underlying heart problem," Dr. Kohler says. "That's going to be hard to discover with an online application."

And the so-called natural supplements aren't regulated.

"So they can pretty much promote anything, say anything they wish, unsubstantiated claims, and it's very difficult to knock these claims down," Dr. Kohler says. "If you look at studies looking to prove their efficacy, they just don't work."

So if you're having trouble in the bedroom, let your health care provider help you with a treatment that's safe and actually works.

Learn more about ED (erectile dysfunction) services

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