Many experts believe that atrophy, a partial or complete wasting away of tissue, and fibrosis, the growth of excess tissue, of the smooth muscle tissue in the body of the penis (cavernous smooth muscle) triggers problems with being able to maintain a firm erection. Poor ability to maintain an erection is often an early symptom of erectile dysfunction. Although the condition is called venous leak, the real problem is not with the veins but malfunction of the smooth muscle that surrounds the veins. The end result is difficulty with maintain a firm erection (losing an erection too quickly) that is now believe to be an early manifestation of atherosclerosis and vascular disease.
A related issue is the potential use of testosterone as a coronary vasodilator and anti-anginal agent. Testosterone has been shown to act as a vasodilator of coronary arteries at physiological concentrations during angiography (Webb, McNeill et al 1999). Furthermore men given a testosterone injection prior to exercise testing showed improved performance, as assessed by ST changes compared to placebo (Rosano et al 1999; Webb, Adamson et al 1999). Administration of one to three months of testosterone treatment has also been shown to improve symptoms of angina and exercise test performance (Wu and Weng 1993; English et al 2000; Malkin, Pugh, Morris et al 2004). Longer term studies are underway. It is thought that testosterone improves angina due its vasodilatory action, which occurs independently of the androgen receptor, via blockade of L-type calcium channels at the cell membrane of the vascular smooth muscle in an action similar to the dihydropyridine calcium-channel blockers such as nifedipine (Hall et al 2006).
Other factors leading to erectile dysfunction are diabetes mellitus, which is a well-known cause of neuropathy). ED is also related to generally poor physical health, poor dietary habits, obesity, and most specifically cardiovascular disease, such as coronary artery disease and peripheral vascular disease. Screening for cardiovascular risk factors, such as smoking, dyslipidemia, hypertension, and alcoholism is helpful.
When many people think of someone with a high level of testosterone, they may picture a man loaded with strength, sexual prowess, and machismo. But while high-T has been correlated with all those things, it’s also been correlated with aggression, sexual misconduct, and violence. One of testosterone’s most common uses—as a performance-enhancing steroid—illustrates both sides of the hormone. Injecting steroids can be a quick way for athletes to dramatically improve performance, but the side effects can also be extreme, and can include excessive body hair growth, sexual dysfunction, and the hard-to-corral anger known as “roid rage.”
Epidemiological evidence supports a link between testosterone and glucose metabolism. Studies in non-diabetic men have found an inverse correlation of total or free testosterone with glucose and insulin levels (Simon et al 1992; Haffner et al 1994) and studies show lower testosterone levels in patients with the metabolic syndrome (Laaksonen et al 2003; Muller et al 2005; Kupelian et al 2006) or diabetes (Barrett-Connor 1992; Andersson et al 1994; Rhoden et al 2005). A study of patients with type 2 diabetes using measurement of serum free testosterone by the gold standard method of equilibrium dialysis, found a 33% prevalence of biochemical hypogonadism (Dhindsa et al 2004). The Barnsley study demonstrated a high prevalence of clinical and biochemical hypogonadism with 19% having total testosterone levels below 8 nmol/l and a further 25% between 8–12 nmol/l (Kapoor, Aldred et al 2007). There are also a number longitudinal studies linking low serum testosterone levels to the future development of the metabolic syndrome (Laaksonen et al 2004) or type 2 diabetes (Haffner et al 1996; Tibblin et al 1996; Stellato et al 2000; Oh et al 2002; Laaksonen et al 2004), indicating a possible role of hypogonadism in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes in men. Alternatively, it has been postulated that obesity may be the common link between low testosterone levels and insulin resistance, diabetes and cardiovascular disease (Phillips et al 2003; Kapoor et al 2005). With regard to this hypothesis, study findings vary as to whether the association of testosterone with diabetes occurs independently of obesity (Haffner et al 1996; Laaksonen et al 2003; Rhoden et al 2005).
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get and keep an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. Estimates suggest that one of every 10 men will suffer from ED at some point during his lifetime. It is important to understand that in most cases, ED is a symptom of another, underlying problem. ED is not considered normal at any age, and may be associated with other problems that interfere with sexual intercourse, such as lack of desire and problems with orgasm and ejaculation.
Transdermal preparations of testosterone utilize the fact that the skin readily absorbs steroid hormones. Initial transdermal preparations took the form of scrotal patches with testosterone loaded on to a membranous patch. Absorption from the scrotal skin was particularly good and physiological levels of testosterone with diurnal variation were reliably attained. The scrotal patches are now rarely used because they require regular shaving or clipping of scrotal hair and because they produce rather high levels of dihydrotestosterone compared to testosterone (Behre et al 1999). Subsequently, non-scrotal patches were developed but the absorptive capacity of non-scrotal skin is much lower, so these patches contain additional chemicals which enhance absorption. The non-scrotal skin patches produce physiological testosterone levels without supraphysiological dihydrotestosterone levels. Unfortunately, the patches produce a high rate of local skin reactions often leading to discontinuation (Parker and Armitage 1999). In the last few years, transdermal testosterone gel preparations have become available. These require daily application by patients and produce steady state physiological testosterone levels within a few days in most patients (Swerdloff et al 2000; Steidle et al 2003). The advantages compared with testosterone patches include invisibility, reduced skin irritation and the ability to adjust dosage, but concerns about transfer to women and children on close skin contact necessitate showering after application or coverage with clothes.