Like other steroid hormones, testosterone is derived from cholesterol (see figure). The first step in the biosynthesis involves the oxidative cleavage of the side-chain of cholesterol by cholesterol side-chain cleavage enzyme (P450scc, CYP11A1), a mitochondrial cytochrome P450 oxidase with the loss of six carbon atoms to give pregnenolone. In the next step, two additional carbon atoms are removed by the CYP17A1 (17α-hydroxylase/17,20-lyase) enzyme in the endoplasmic reticulum to yield a variety of C19 steroids. In addition, the 3β-hydroxyl group is oxidized by 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase to produce androstenedione. In the final and rate limiting step, the C17 keto group androstenedione is reduced by 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase to yield testosterone.
An international consensus document was recently published and provides guidance on the diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of late-onset hypogonadism (LOH) in men. The diagnosis of LOH requires biochemical and clinical components. Controversy in defining the clinical syndrome continues due to the high prevalence of hypogonadal symptoms in the aging male population and the non-specific nature of these symptoms. Further controversy surrounds setting a lower limit of normal testosterone, the limitations of the commonly available total testosterone result in assessing some patients and the unavailability of reliable measures of bioavailable or free testosterone for general clinical use. As with any clinical intervention testosterone treatment should be judged on a balance of risk versus benefit. The traditional benefits of testosterone on sexual function, mood, strength and quality of life remain the primary goals of treatment but possible beneficial effects on other parameters such as bone density, obesity, insulin resistance and angina are emerging and will be reviewed. Potential concerns regarding the effects of testosterone on prostate disease, aggression and polycythaemia will also be addressed. The options available for treatment have increased in recent years with the availability of a number of testosterone preparations which can reliably produce physiological serum concentrations.
Her remark was entirely destructive of poetry, since it was to the effect that poetry had nothing whatever to do with her; all her friends spent their lives in making up phrases, she said; all his feeling was an illusion, and next moment, as if to taunt him with his impotence, she had sunk into one of those dreamy states which took no account whatever of his existence.
"Some say it's just a part of aging, but that's a misconception," says Jason Hedges, MD, PhD, a urologist at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. A gradual decline in testosterone can't explain a near-total lack of interest in sex, for example. And for Hedges' patients who are in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s and having erectile problems, other health problems may be a bigger issue than aging.
^ Butenandt A, Hanisch G (1935). "Umwandlung des Dehydroandrosterons in Androstendiol und Testosterone; ein Weg zur Darstellung des Testosterons aus Cholestrin" [About Testosterone. Conversion of Dehydro-androsterons into androstendiol and testosterone; a way for the structure assignment of testosterone from cholesterol]. Hoppe-Seyler's Z Physiol Chem (in German). 237 (2): 89–97. doi:10.1515/bchm2.1935.237.1-3.89.
Treatment involves addressing the underlying causes, lifestyle modifications, and addressing psychosocial issues. In many cases, a trial of pharmacological therapy with a PDE5 inhibitor, such as sildenafil, can be attempted. In some cases, treatment can involve inserting prostaglandin pellets into the urethra, injecting smooth muscle relaxants and vasodilators into the penis, a penile prosthesis, a penis pump, or vascular reconstructive surgery. It is the most common sexual problem in men.
Men's levels of testosterone, a hormone known to affect men's mating behaviour, changes depending on whether they are exposed to an ovulating or nonovulating woman's body odour. Men who are exposed to scents of ovulating women maintained a stable testosterone level that was higher than the testosterone level of men exposed to nonovulation cues. Testosterone levels and sexual arousal in men are heavily aware of hormone cycles in females. This may be linked to the ovulatory shift hypothesis, where males are adapted to respond to the ovulation cycles of females by sensing when they are most fertile and whereby females look for preferred male mates when they are the most fertile; both actions may be driven by hormones.
Men who produce more testosterone are more likely to engage in extramarital sex. Testosterone levels do not rely on physical presence of a partner; testosterone levels of men engaging in same-city and long-distance relationships are similar. Physical presence may be required for women who are in relationships for the testosterone–partner interaction, where same-city partnered women have lower testosterone levels than long-distance partnered women.
An occasional problem achieving an erection is nothing to worry about. But failure to do so more than 50% of the time at any age may indicate a condition that needs treatment. About 40% of men in their 40s report at least occasional problems getting and maintaining erections. So do more than half (52%) of men aged 40 to 70, and about 70% of men in their 70s.
Dr. Wyne, in Houston, said, "When I hear a catchy little phrase, or someone is trying to get us to use a drug that is not based on clinical data, the cynical part of me asks where did it come from." She added, "There is a very important role for testosterone replacement therapy. It's wonderful that we have all these options, but we need to be using them appropriately, in a safe and efficacious manner."
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).
"I am very cautious about committing someone for life to medication," said Dr. Kathleen L. Wyne, who directs research on diabetes and metabolism at Houston's Methodist Hospital Research Institute and serves on the Sex Hormone and Reproductive Endocrinology Scientific Committee for the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. "That does frustrate patients because they have heard about [Low T] from TV and friends."
A large number of trials have demonstrated a positive effect of testosterone treatment on bone mineral density (Katznelson et al 1996; Behre et al 1997; Leifke et al 1998; Snyder et al 2000; Zacharin et al 2003; Wang, Cunningham et al 2004; Aminorroaya et al 2005; Benito et al 2005) and bone architecture (Benito et al 2005). These effects are often more impressive in longer trials, which have shown that adequate replacement will lead to near normal bone density but that the full effects may take two years or more (Snyder et al 2000; Wang, Cunningham et al 2004; Aminorroaya et al 2005). Three randomized placebo-controlled trials of testosterone treatment in aging males have been conducted (Snyder et al 1999; Kenny et al 2001; Amory et al 2004). One of these studies concerned men with a mean age of 71 years with two serum testosterone levels less than 12.1nmol/l. After 36 months of intramuscular testosterone treatment or placebo, there were significant increases in vertebral and hip bone mineral density. In this study, there was also a significant decrease in the bone resorption marker urinary deoxypyridinoline with testosterone treatment (Amory et al 2004). The second study contained men with low bioavailable testosterone levels and an average age of 76 years. Testosterone treatment in the form of transdermal patches was given for 1 year. During this trial there was a significant preservation of hip bone mineral density with testosterone treatment but testosterone had no effect on bone mineral density at other sites including the vertebrae. There were no significant alterations in bone turnover markers during testosterone treatment (Kenny et al 2001). The remaining study contained men of average age 73 years. Men were eligible for the study if their serum total testosterone levels were less than 16.5 nmol/L, meaning that the study contained men who would usually be considered eugonadal. The beneficial effects of testosterone on bone density were confined to the men who had lower serum testosterone levels at baseline and were seen only in the vertebrae. There were no significant changes in bone turnover markers. Testosterone in the trial was given via scrotal patches for a 36 month duration (Snyder et al 1999). A recent meta-analysis of the effects on bone density of testosterone treatment in men included data from these studies and two other randomized controlled trials. The findings were that testosterone produces a significant increase of 2.7% in the bone mineral density at the lumber spine but no overall change at the hip (Isidori et al 2005). These results from randomized controlled trials in aging men show much smaller benefits of testosterone treatment on bone density than have been seen in other trials. This could be due to the trials including patients who are not hypogonadal and being too short to allow for the maximal effects of testosterone. The meta-analysis also assessed the data concerning changes of bone formation and resorption markers during testosterone treatment. There was a significant decrease in bone resorption markers but no change in markers of bone formation suggesting that reduction of bone resorption may be the primary mode of action of testosterone in improving bone density (Isidori et al 2005).
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.
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.