Erectile dysfunction may be an unpleasant condition that no one really wants to talk about, failing to acknowledge it won’t make the problem go away. Your best defense against health problems like this is to learn everything you can about it so you can tackle the problem at the root. If you’re ready to stop living in embarrassment about your sexual function, become an advocate for yourself and your own health and talk to your doctor.
You should talk to your doctor about possible treatments. You may want to talk to other patients who have had the treatment planned for you. You also may want to seek a second doctor's opinion about surgery before making your decision. You may find it difficult to talk to your doctor about impotence. You will want to find a doctor who treats this condition and will help you feel comfortable talking about the problem and choosing the best treatment. You can also get more information by contacting your local National Kidney Foundation affiliate.
Before assessing the evidence of testosterone’s action in the aging male it is important to note certain methodological considerations which are common to the interpretation of any clinical trial of testosterone replacement. Many interventional trials of the effects of testosterone on human health and disease have been conducted. There is considerable heterogenicity in terms of study design and these differences have a potential to significantly affect the results seen in various studies. Gonadal status at baseline and the testosterone level produced by testosterone treatment in the study are of particular importance because the effects of altering testosterone from subphysiological to physiological levels may be different from those of altering physiological levels to supraphysiological. Another important factor is the length of treatment. Randomised controlled trials of testosterone have ranged from one to thirty-six months in duration (Isidori et al 2005) although some uncontrolled studies have lasted up to 42 months. Many effects of testosterone are thought to fully develop in the first few months of treatment but effects on bone, for example, have been shown to continue over two years or more (Snyder et al 2000; Wang, Cunningham et al 2004).
Testosterone is an androgen hormone produced by the adrenal cortex, the testes (in men), and the ovaries (in women). It is often considered the primary male sex hormone. Testosterone stimulates the development of male secondary sex characteristics (like body hair and muscle growth) and is essential in the production of sperm. In women, testosterone plays a role in egg development and ovulation.
Toggle navigationNewsConditionsConditionsADHDAllergic rhinitisAlzheimer's diseaseAnxietyArthritisAsthmaAutismBowel cancerBreast cancerCancerChesty coughsChickenpoxChlamydiaCholesterolCoeliac diseaseCommon coldConstipationCOPDDepressionDiabetesDiverticulitisEpilepsyFatty liverFibromyalgiaGenital herpesGORD (reflux)GoutHaemorrhoidsHair lossHeart attackHepatitisHiatus herniaHigh blood pressureHIV and AIDSImpotenceMenopauseMigraineNeuropathic painOsteoporosisPainPeptic ulcersPneumoniaProstate cancerScabiesSchizophreniaSciaticaShinglesSinusitisSkin cancerStrokeThyroid gland disordersUrticaria (hives)Vaginal thrushVasectomyVertigoVulval problemsWhooping coughMedicinesMedicinesAugmentinAvilChlorsigDaklinzaDuromineEndepEndoneHarvoniLevlenLyricaMersyndolMetrogylPanadeine FortePanefcortelonePrimolutRestavitSovaldiStemetilViagraZentelFind a MedicineMedicines CentreSymptomsSymptomsBack painChildhood rashesCommon coldDepressionFeverFibromyalgiaHeart attackHeel painHerpesLeg acheLeg crampsSciaticaShinglesStrokeVaginal thrushVertigoMore symptomsLifestyleHealthy LifestyleAddictionsAlcoholCholesterolExerciseHealthy eatingHealthy WeightHeart healthImmunisationSleepSmokingStress Health Centres Nutrition & WeightSports & FitnessTools Medical Dictionary Medical Dictionary
Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone and an anabolic steroid. In male humans, testosterone plays a key role in the development of male reproductive tissues such as testes and prostate, as well as promoting secondary sexual characteristics such as increased muscle and bone mass, and the growth of body hair.[2] In addition, testosterone is involved in health and well-being,[3] and the prevention of osteoporosis.[4] Insufficient levels of testosterone in men may lead to abnormalities including frailty and bone loss.
A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).
Exercise and lifestyle modifications may improve erectile function. Weight loss may help by decreasing inflammation, increasing testosterone, and improving self-esteem. Patients should be educated to increase activity, reduce weight, and stop smoking, as these efforts can improve or restore erectile function in men without comorbidities. Precise glycemic control in diabetic patients and pharmacologic treatment of hypertension may be important in preventing or reducing sexual dysfunction. [49]
“Although having sex at 70 is not the same as having sex at 20, erectile dysfunction is not a normal part of aging,” according to Michael Feloney, MD, urologic surgeon and expert on sexual dysfunction issues at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. “You should still be able to have a satisfying sex life as you age." If you are experiencing erectile dysfunction, these 10 dos and don'ts may help.
Conditions associated with reduced nerve and endothelium function (eg, aging, hypertension, smoking, hypercholesterolemia, and diabetes) alter the balance between contraction and relaxation factors (see Pathophysiology). These conditions cause circulatory and structural changes in penile tissues, resulting in arterial insufficiency and defective smooth muscle relaxation. In some patients, sexual dysfunction may be the presenting symptom of these disorders.
Testosterone is included in the World Health Organization's list of essential medicines, which are the most important medications needed in a basic health system.[172] It is available as a generic medication.[10] The price depends on the form of testosterone used.[173] It can be administered as a cream or transdermal patch that is applied to the skin, by injection into a muscle, as a tablet that is placed in the cheek, or by ingestion.[10]

A team led by Dr. Joel Finkelstein at Massachusetts General Hospital investigated testosterone and estradiol levels in 400 healthy men, 20 to 50 years of age. To control hormone levels, the researchers first gave the participants injections of a drug that suppressed their normal testosterone and estradiol production. The men were randomly assigned to 5 groups that received different amounts (from 0 to 10 grams) of a topical 1% testosterone gel daily for 16 weeks. Half of the participants were also given a drug to block testosterone from being converted to estradiol.


THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
Intramuscular testosterone injections were first used around fifty years ago. Commercially available preparations contain testosterone esters in an oily vehicle. Esterification is designed to retard the release of testosterone from the depot site into the blood because the half life of unmodified testosterone would be very short. For many years intramuscular preparations were the most commonly used testosterone therapy and this is still the case in some centers. Pain can occur at injection sites, but the injections are generally well tolerated and free of major side effects. Until recently, the available intramuscular injections were designed for use at a frequency of between weekly and once every four weeks. These preparations are the cheapest mode of testosterone treatment available, but often cause supraphysiological testosterone levels in the days immediately following injection and/or low trough levels prior to the next injection during which time the symptoms of hypogonadism may return (Nieschlag et al 1976). More recently, a commercial preparation of testosterone undecanoate for intramuscular injection has become available. This has a much longer half life and produces testosterone levels in the physiological range throughout each treatment cycle (Schubert et al 2004). The usual dose frequency is once every three months. This is much more convenient for patients but does not allow prompt cessation of treatment if a contraindication to testosterone develops. The most common example of this would be prostate cancer and it has therefore been suggested that shorter acting testosterone preparations should preferably used for treating older patients (Nieschlag et al 2005). Similar considerations apply to the use of subcutaneous implants which take the form of cylindrical pellets injected under the skin of the abdominal wall and steadily release testosterone to provide physiological testosterone levels for up to six months. Problems also include pellet extrusion and infection (Handelsman et al 1997).
Testosterone is a steroid from the androstane class containing a keto and hydroxyl groups at the three and seventeen positions respectively. It is biosynthesized in several steps from cholesterol and is converted in the liver to inactive metabolites.[5] It exerts its action through binding to and activation of the androgen receptor.[5] In humans and most other vertebrates, testosterone is secreted primarily by the testicles of males and, to a lesser extent, the ovaries of females. On average, in adult males, levels of testosterone are about 7 to 8 times as great as in adult females.[6] As the metabolism of testosterone in males is greater, the daily production is about 20 times greater in men.[7][8] Females are also more sensitive to the hormone.[9]

Several pathways have been described to explain how information travels from the hypothalamus to the sacral autonomic centers. One pathway travels from the dorsomedial hypothalamus through the dorsal and central gray matter, descends to the locus ceruleus, and projects ventrally in the mesencephalic reticular formation. Input from the brain is conveyed through the dorsal spinal columns to the thoracolumbar and sacral autonomic nuclei.
Penile erection is managed by two mechanisms: the reflex erection, which is achieved by directly touching the penile shaft, and the psychogenic erection, which is achieved by erotic or emotional stimuli. The former uses the peripheral nerves and the lower parts of the spinal cord, whereas the latter uses the limbic system of the brain. In both cases, an intact neural system is required for a successful and complete erection. Stimulation of the penile shaft by the nervous system leads to the secretion of nitric oxide (NO), which causes the relaxation of smooth muscles of corpora cavernosa (the main erectile tissue of penis), and subsequently penile erection. Additionally, adequate levels of testosterone (produced by the testes) and an intact pituitary gland are required for the development of a healthy erectile system. As can be understood from the mechanisms of a normal erection, impotence may develop due to hormonal deficiency, disorders of the neural system, lack of adequate penile blood supply or psychological problems.[18] Spinal cord injury causes sexual dysfunction including ED. Restriction of blood flow can arise from impaired endothelial function due to the usual causes associated with coronary artery disease, but can also be caused by prolonged exposure to bright light.
Performance anxiety can be another cause of impotence. If a person wasn’t able to achieve an erection in the past, he may fear he won’t be able to achieve an erection in the future. A person may also find he can’t achieve an erection with a certain partner. Someone with ED related to performance anxiety may be able to have full erections when masturbating or when sleeping, yet he isn’t able to maintain an erection during intercourse.
Obesity and metabolic syndrome can cause changes in blood pressure, body composition, and cholesterol which may lead to ED. Other conditions that may contribute to erectile dysfunction include Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, Peyronie’s disease, sleep disorders, alcoholism, and drug abuse. Taking certain medications can also increase your risk for ED.
In some cases, ED can be a warning sign of more serious disease. One study suggests ED is a strong predictor of heart attack, stroke, and death from cardiovascular disease. The researchers say all men diagnosed with ED should be evaluated for cardiovascular disease. This does not mean every man with ED will develop heart disease, or that every man with heart disease has ED, but patients should be aware of the link.
The reliable measurement of serum free testosterone requires equilibrium dialysis. This is not appropriate for clinical use as it is very time consuming and therefore expensive. The amount of bioavailable testosterone can be measured as a percentage of the total testosterone after precipitation of the SHBG bound fraction using ammonium sulphate. The bioavailable testosterone is then calculated from the total testosterone level. This method has an excellent correlation with free testosterone (Tremblay and Dube 1974) but is not widely available for clinical use. In most clinical situations the available tests are total testosterone and SHBG which are both easily and reliably measured. Total testosterone is appropriate for the diagnosis of overt male hypogonadism where testosterone levels are very low and also in excluding hypogonadism in patients with normal/high-normal testosterone levels. With increasing age, a greater number of men have total testosterone levels just below the normal range or in the low-normal range. In these patients total testosterone can be an unreliable indicator of hypogonadal status. There are a number of formulae that calculate an estimated bioavailable or free testosterone level using the SHBG and total testosterone levels. Some of these have been shown to correlate well with laboratory measures and there is evidence that they more reliably indicate hypogonadism than total testosterone in cases of borderline biochemical hypogonadism (Vermeulen et al 1971; Morris et al 2004). It is important that such tests are validated for use in patient populations relevant to the patient under consideration.

The association between low testosterone and ED is not entirely clear. Although these 2 processes certainly overlap in some instances, they are distinct entities. Some 2-21% of men have both hypogonadism and ED; however, it is unclear to what degree treating the former will improve erectile function. [17] About 35-40% of men with low testosterone see an improvement in their erections with testosterone replacement; however, almost 65% of these men see no improvement. [15]
A number of epidemiological studies have found that bone mineral density in the aging male population is positively associated with endogenous androgen levels (Murphy et al 1993; Ongphiphadhanakul et al 1995; Rucker et al 2004). Testosterone levels in young men have been shown to correlate with bone size, indicating a role in determination of peak bone mass and protection from future osteoporosis (Lorentzon et al 2005). Male hypogonadism has been shown to be a risk factor for hip fracture (Jackson et al 1992) and a recent study showed a high prevalence of hypogonadism in a group of male patients with average age 75 years presenting with minimal trauma fractures compared to stroke victims who acted as controls (Leifke et al 2005). Estrogen is a well known determinant of bone density in women and some investigators have found serum estrogen to be a strong determinant of male bone density (Khosla et al 1998; Khosla et al 2001). Serum estrogen was also found to correlate better than testosterone with peak bone mass (Khosla et al 2001) but this is in contradiction of a more recent study showing a negative correlation of estrogen with peak bone size (Lorentzon et al 2005). Men with aromatase deficiency (Carani et al 1997) or defunctioning estrogen receptor mutations (Smith et al 1994) have been found to have abnormally low bone density despite normal or high testosterone levels which further emphasizes the important influence of estrogen on male bone density.

Examples of common neurologic conditions that can lead to ED include cerebral vascular accident, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and spinal cord injury. Microvascular disease associated with diabetes is thought to compound the endothelial and neural injuries associated with this disease. Pelvic surgery may disrupt both neural and vascular pathways, resulting in ED.

Replacement therapy may produce desired results, such as greater muscle mass and a stronger sex drive. However, the treatment does carry some side effects. Oily skin and fluid retention are common. The testicles may also shrink, and sperm production could decrease significantly. Some studies have found no greater risk of prostate cancer with testosterone replacement therapy, but it continues to be a topic of ongoing research.
Clinical trials of the effect of testosterone on glucose metabolism in men have occurred in diabetic and non-diabetic populations. Data specific to aging males is not available. A series of studies investigated the effects of testosterone or dihydrotestosterone given for 6 weeks or 3 months to middle aged, non-diabetic obese men (Marin, Holmang et al 1992; Marin, Krotkiewski et al 1992; Marin et al 1993). It was found that physiological treatment doses led to improved insulin resistance, as measured by the gold standard technique using a euglycemic clamp and/or serum glucose and insulin responses during glucose tolerance test. These improvements were associated with decreased central obesity, measured by computered tomography (CT) or waist-hip ratio, without reduced total fat mass. Insulin resistance improved more with testosterone than dihydrotestosterone treatment and beneficial effects were greater in men with lower baseline testosterone levels. Increasing testosterone levels into the supraphysiological range lead to decreased glucose tolerance.
Dr Kenny du Toit is a urologist practicing in Rondebosch, Cape Town. He is also consultant at Tygerberg hospital, where he is a senior lecturer at Stellenbosch University. He is a member of the South African Urological Association, Colleges of Medicine South Africa and Société Internationale d’Urologie. Board registered with both the HPCSA (Health professions council of South Africa) and GMC (General medical council UK). He has a keen interest in oncology, kidney stones and erectile dysfunction.http://www.dutoiturology.co.za

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).


In summary, low testosterone levels are linked to the presence of numerous cardiovascular risk factors. Testosterone treatment acts to improve some of these factors, but effects may vary according to pre- and post-treatment testosterone levels, as well as other factors. There is little data from trials specific to aging males. Appropriately-powered randomized controlled trials, with cardiovascular disease primary endpoints, are needed to clarify the situation, but in the meantime the balance of evidence is that testosterone has either neutral or beneficial effects on the risk of cardiovascular disease in men. It is particularly important to define the effect of testosterone treatment on cardiovascular disease in view of its potential use as an anti-anginal agent.
Regardless of the method of testosterone treatment chosen, patients will require regular monitoring during the first year of treatment in order to monitor clinical response to testosterone, testosterone levels and adverse effects, including prostate cancer (see Table 2). It is recommended that patients should be reviewed at least every three months during this time. Once treatment has been established, less frequent review is appropriate but the care of the patient should be the responsibility of an appropriately trained specialist with sufficient experience of managing patients treated with testosterone.
In men with hypogonadism, a low level of testosterone is produced due to a problem in the testicles or the pituitary gland. According to Harvard Medical School, determining exactly what constitutes a low testosterone level is a controversial matter. Levels of this hormone fluctuate wildly and even vary according to the time of day. However, generally physicians only decide to treat a patient for hypogonadism if the blood testosterone level is below 300 ng/dL and the following symptoms outlined by The National Institutes of Health are present.    
Replacement therapy may produce desired results, such as greater muscle mass and a stronger sex drive. However, the treatment does carry some side effects. Oily skin and fluid retention are common. The testicles may also shrink, and sperm production could decrease significantly. Some studies have found no greater risk of prostate cancer with testosterone replacement therapy, but it continues to be a topic of ongoing research.

Treatment depends on the underlying cause. In general, exercise, particularly of the aerobic type, is effective for preventing ED during midlife. Exercise as a treatment is under investigation.[22]:6, 18–19 For tobacco smokers, cessation often results in a significant improvement.[23] Oral pharmacotherapy and vacuum erection devices are first-line treatments,[22]:20, 24 followed by injections of drugs into the penis, as well as penile implants.[22]:25–26 Vascular reconstructive surgeries are beneficial in certain groups.[24]

Although not proven, it is likely that erectile dysfunction can be prevented by good general health, paying particular attention to body weight, exercise, and cigarette smoking. For example, heart disease and diabetes are problems that can cause erectile dysfunction, and both are preventable through lifestyle changes such as sensible eating and regular exercise. Furthermore, early diagnosis and treatment of associated conditions like diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol may prevent or delay erectile dysfunction, or stop the erectile dysfunction from getting more serious.
However, testosterone is only one of many factors that aid in adequate erections. Research is inconclusive regarding the role of testosterone replacement in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. In a review of studies that looked at the benefit of testosterone in men with erection difficulties, nearly half showed no improvement with testosterone treatment. Many times, other health problems play a role in erectile difficulties. These can include:
×