It is essential to discuss erectile dysfunction with your doctor, so any serious underlying causes can be excluded and treatment options can be discussed. Many men are embarrassed discussing this issue with their doctor, or even their partner. Open communication with your doctor, and in your relationship, is important for effectively managing this common problem.
The mechanism of age related decreases in serum testosterone levels has also been the subject of investigation. Metabolic clearance declines with age but this effect is less pronounced than a reduction in testosterone production, so the overall effect is to reduce serum testosterone levels. Gonadotrophin levels rise during aging (Feldman et al 2002) and testicular secretory responses to recombinant human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) are reduced (Mulligan et al 1999, 2001). This implies that the reduced production may be caused by primary testicular failure but in fact these changes are not adequate to fully explain the fall in testosterone levels. There are changes in the lutenising hormone (LH) production which consist of decreased LH pulse frequency and amplitude, (Veldhuis et al 1992; Pincus et al 1997) although pituitary production of LH in response to pharmacological stimulation with exogenous GnRH analogues is preserved (Mulligan et al 1999). It therefore seems likely that there are changes in endogenous production of GnRH which underlie the changes in LH secretion and have a role in the age related decline in testosterone. Thus the decreases in testosterone levels with aging seem to reflect changes at all levels of the hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis. With advancing age there is also a reduction in androgen receptor concentration in some target tissues and this may contribute to the clinical syndrome of LOH (Ono et al 1988; Gallon et al 1989).
A recent study compared total and bioavailable testosterone levels with inflammatory cytokines in men aged 65 and over. There was an inverse correlation with the pro-inflammatory soluble interleukin-6 receptor, but no association with interleukin-6 (IL-6), highly sensitive CRP (hsCRP), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) or interleukin-1β (IL-1β (Maggio et al 2006). Another trial found that young men with idiopathic hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism had higher levels of proinflammatory factors interleukin-2 (IL-2), interleukin-4 (IL-4), complement C3c and total immunoglobulin in comparison to controls (Yesilova et al 2000). Testosterone treatment in a group of hypogonadal men, mostly with known coronary artery disease, induced anti-inflammatory changes in the cytokine profile of reduced IL-1β and TNF-α and increased IL-10 (Malkin, Pugh, Jones et al 2004).
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.