Diabetes. Erectile Dysfunction is common in people with diabetes. An estimated 10.9 million adult men in the U.S. have diabetes, and 35 to 50 percent of these men are impotent. The process involves premature and unusually severe hardening of the arteries. Peripheral neuropathy, with involvement of the nerves controlling erections, is commonly seen in people with diabetes.
Erectile dysfunction in older men. Because erections primarily involve the blood vessels, it is not surprising that the most common causes in older men are conditions that block blood flow to the penis, such as atherosclerosis or diabetes. Another vascular cause may be a faulty vein, which lets blood drain too quickly from the penis. Other physical disorders, as well as hormonal imbalances and certain operations, may also result in erectile dysfunction.
Cross-sectional studies have found a positive association between serum testosterone and some measures of cognitive ability in men (Barrett-Connor, Goodman-Gruen et al 1999; Yaffe et al 2002). Longitudinal studies have found that free testosterone levels correlate positively with future cognitive abilities and reduced rate of cognitive decline (Moffat et al 2002) and that, compared with controls, testosterone levels are reduced in men with Alzheimer’s disease at least 10 years prior to diagnosis (Moffat et al 2004). Studies of the effects of induced androgen deficiency in patients with prostate cancer have shown that profoundly lowering testosterone leads to worsening cognitive functions (Almeida et al 2004; Salminen et al 2004) and increased levels of serum amyloid (Gandy et al 2001; Almeida et al 2004), which is central to the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease (Parihar and Hemnani 2004). Furthermore, testosterone reduces amyloid-induced hippocampal neurotoxity in vitro (Pike 2001) as well as exhibiting other neuroprotective effects (Pouliot et al 1996). The epidemiological and experimental data propose a potential role of testosterone in protecting cognitive function and preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
It may also become a treatment for anemia, bone density and strength problems. In a 2017 study published in the journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), testosterone treatments corrected anemia in older men with low testosterone levels better than a placebo. Another 2017 study published in JAMA found that older men with low testosterone had increased bone strength and density after treatment when compared with a placebo.
Organic ED involves abnormalities the penile arteries, veins, or both and is the most common cause of ED, especially in older men. When the problem is arterial, it is usually caused by arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, although trauma to the arteries may be the cause. The controllable risk factors for arteriosclerosis--being overweight, lack of exercise, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and cigarette smoking--can cause erectile failure often before progressing to affect the heart.
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A number of research groups have tried to further define the relationship of testosterone and body composition by artificial alteration of testosterone levels in eugonadal populations. Induction of a hypogonadal state in healthy men (Mauras et al 1998) or men with prostate cancer (Smith et al 2001) using a gonadotrophin-releasing-hormone (GnRH) analogue was shown to produce increases in fat mass and decreased fat free mass. Another experimental approach in healthy men featured suppression of endogenous testosterone production with a GnRH analogue, followed by treatment with different doses of weekly intramuscular testosterone esters for 20 weeks. Initially the experiments involved men aged 18–35 years (Bhasin et al 2001) but subsequently the study was repeated with a similar protocol in men aged 60–75 years (Bhasin et al 2005). The different doses given were shown to produce a range of serum concentrations from subphysiological to supraphysiological (Bhasin et al 2001). A given testosterone dose produced higher serum concentrations of testosterone in the older age group (Bhasin et al 2005). Subphysiological dosing of testosterone produced a gain in fat mass and loss of fat free mass during the study. There were sequential decreases in fat mass and increases in fat free mass with each increase of testosterone dose. These changes in body composition were seen in physiological and supraphysiological treatment doses. The trend was similar in younger versus older men but the gain of fat mass at the lowest testosterone dose was less prominent in older patients (Bhasin et al 2001; Bhasin et al 2005). With regard to muscle function, the investigators showed dose dependent increases in leg strength and power with testosterone treatment in young and older men but there was no improvement in fatigability (Storer et al 2003; Bhasin et al 2005).
Stanley A Brosman, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Association for Cancer Research, American College of Surgeons, American Medical Association, American Urological Association, Society for Basic Urologic Research, Society of Surgical Oncology, Society of Urologic Oncology, Western Section of the American Urological Association, Association of Clinical Research Professionals, American Society of Clinical Oncology, International Society of Urology, International Society of Urological Pathology
The FDA recommends that men follow general precautions before taking a medication for ED. Men who are taking medications that contain nitrates, such as nitroglycerin, should NOT use these medications. Taking nitrates with one of these medications can lower blood pressure too much. In addition, men who take tadalafil or vardenfil should use alpha blockers with care and only as instructed by their physician, as they could result in hypotension (abnormally low blood pressure). Experts recommend that men have a complete medical history and physical examination to determine the cause of ED. Men should tell their doctor about all the medications they are taking, including over-the-counter medications.
Relationship problems often complicate erectile dysfunction. Improving your relationship may be part of the solution. It may be a good idea to get counseling together from a sex therapist, marriage counselor, or a medical specialist. "I almost always see couples together to discuss erectile dysfunction. It often turns out that both partners have issues regarding the sexual relationship and once they are out in the open, couples can work together on a more satisfying sexual experience," says Feloney.
The link between chronic disease and ED is most striking for diabetes. Men who have diabetes are two to three times more likely to have erectile dysfunction than men who do not have diabetes. Among men with erectile dysfunction, those with diabetes may experience the problem as much as 10 to 15 years earlier than men without diabetes. Yet evidence shows that good blood sugar control can minimize this risk. Other conditions that may cause ED include cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), kidney disease, and multiple sclerosis. These illnesses can impair blood flow or nerve impulses throughout the body.
Male hypogonadism is a clinical syndrome caused by a lack of androgens or their action. Causes of hypogonadism may reflect abnormalities of the hypothalamus, pituitary, testes or target tissues. Increases in the amount of testosterone converted to estrogen under the action of the enzyme aromatase may also contribute to hypogonadism. Most aspects of the clinical syndrome are unrelated to the location of the cause. A greater factor in the production of a clinical syndrome is the age of onset. The development of hypogonadism with aging is known as late-onset hypogonadism and is characterised by loss of vitality, fatigue, loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, somnolence, depression and poor concentration. Hypogonadal ageing men also gain fat mass and lose bone mass, muscle mass and strength.
Another study compared the response of surgically and medically castrated rabbits to vardenafil with that of control rabbits.  Castrated rabbits did not respond to vardenafil, whereas noncastrated rabbits did respond appropriately. This result suggests that a minimum amount of testosterone is necessary for PDE5 inhibitors to produce an erection.
Autopsy studies have found histological prostate cancer to be very common, with one series showing a prevalence of greater than fifty percent in men over age sixty (Holund 1980). The majority of histological cancers go undetected so that the clinical incidence of the disease is much lower, but it is still the most prevalent non-skin cancer in men (Jemal et al 2003). Prostate cancer is also unusual in comparison to other adult cancers in that the majority of those with the disease will die of other causes. Treatment of prostate cancer with androgen deprivation is known to be successful and is widely practiced, indicating an important role for testosterone in modifying the behavior of prostate cancer. In view of this, testosterone treatment is absolutely contraindicated in any case of known or suspected prostate cancer. The question of whether testosterone treatment could cause new cases of prostate cancer, or more likely cause progression of undiagnosed histological prostate cancer that would otherwise have remained occult, is an important consideration when treating ageing males with testosterone.
Male hypogonadism becomes more common with increasing age and is currently an under-treated condition. The diagnosis of hypogonadism in the aging male requires a combination of symptoms and low serum testosterone levels. The currently available testosterone preparations can produce consistent physiological testosterone levels and provide for patient preference.