A previous meta-analysis has confirmed that treatment of hypogonadal patients with testosterone improves erections compared to placebo (Jain et al 2000). A number of studies have investigated the effect of testosterone levels on erectile dysfunction in normal young men by inducing a hypogonadal state, for example by using a GnRH analogue, and then replacing testosterone at varying doses to produce levels ranging from low-normal to high (Buena et al 1993; Hirshkowitz et al 1997). These studies have shown no significant effects of testosterone on erectile function. These findings contrast with a similar study conducted in healthy men aged 60–75, showing that free testosterone levels achieved with treatment during the study correlate with overall sexual function, including morning erections, spontaneous erections and libido (Gray et al 2005). This suggests that the men in this older age group are particularly likely to suffer sexual symptoms if their testosterone is low. Furthermore, the severity of erectile dysfunction positively correlates with lower testosterone levels in men with type 2 diabetes (Kapoor, Clarke et al 2007).
The laboratory results should be discussed with the patient and, if possible, with his sexual partner. This educational process allows a review of the basic aspects of the anatomy and physiology of the sexual response and an explanation of the possible etiology and associated risk factors (eg, smoking and the use of various medications). Treatment options and their benefits and risks should be discussed. This type of dialogue allows the patient and physician to cooperate in developing an optimal management strategy.
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.