Erectile dysfunction - (ED) or impotence is sexual dysfunction characterized by the inability to develop or maintain an erection of the penis during sexual activity. A penile erection is the hydraulic effect of blood entering and being retained in sponge-like bodies within the penis. The process is most often initiated as a result of sexual arousal, when signals are transmitted from the brain to nerves in the penis.
Mood disturbance and dysthymia are part of the clinical syndrome of hypogonadism. Epidemiological studies have found a positive association between testosterone levels and mood, and depressed aging males have lower testosterone levels than controls (Barrett-Connor, Von Muhlen et al 1999). Furthermore, induction of a hypogonadal state during treatment of men for prostate cancer leads to an increase in depression scores (Almeida et al 2004). Trials of testosterone treatment effects on mood have varied in outcome. Data on the effects on men with depression are conflicting (Seidman et al 2001; Pope et al 2003) but there is evidence that testosterone treatment of older hypogonadal men does result in improvements in mood (Wang et al 1996) and that this may occur through changes in regional brain perfusion (Azad et al 2003).

ED usually has something physical behind it, particularly in older men. But psychological factors can be a factor in many cases of ED. Experts say stress, depression, poor self-esteem, and performance anxiety can short-circuit the process that leads to an erection. These factors can also make the problem worse in men whose ED stems from something physical.
These oral medications reversibly inhibit penile-specific PDE5 and enhance the nitric oxide–cGMP pathways of cavernous smooth muscle relaxation; that is, all prevent the breakdown of cGMP by PDE5. It is important to emphasize to patients that these drugs augment the body’s natural erectile mechanisms, therefore the neural and psychoemotional stimuli typically needed for arousal still need to be activated for the drugs to be efficacious.
A simple blood test can determine testosterone levels. There is a wide range of “normal” or healthy level of testosterone circulating in the bloodstream. The normal range of testosterone for men is between 250 and 1100 ng/dL for adult males, and between 8 and 60 ng/dL for adult females, according to the Mayo Clinic. Ask your doctor to test your testosterone levels if you have concerns about low testosterone (low T).

Dr. Ronald Swerdloff, chief of the endocrinology division at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and a professor of medicine at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, served on the panel of experts who developed the Endocrine Society's guidelines. He is also the principal investigator for one of the 12 sites of The Testosterone Trial in Older Men, a nationwide study funded mainly by the National Institute on Aging. The study of 800 men over age 65 with low testosterone is looking at whether men using AndroGel for one year, compared to placebo, will show improvements in walking speed, sexual activity, vitality, memory, and anemia. The study will be completed in June 2015.
The Cancer of the Prostate Strategic Urologic Research Endeavor (CaPSURE) study, designed to determine whether an individual man’s sexual outcomes after most common treatments for early-stage prostate cancer could be accurately predicted on the basis of baseline characteristics and treatment plans, found that 2 years after treatment, 177 (35%) of 511 men who underwent prostatectomy reported the ability to attain functional erections suitable for intercourse. [45]
The bones and the brain are two important tissues in humans where the primary effect of testosterone is by way of aromatization to estradiol. In the bones, estradiol accelerates ossification of cartilage into bone, leading to closure of the epiphyses and conclusion of growth. In the central nervous system, testosterone is aromatized to estradiol. Estradiol rather than testosterone serves as the most important feedback signal to the hypothalamus (especially affecting LH secretion).[111] In many mammals, prenatal or perinatal "masculinization" of the sexually dimorphic areas of the brain by estradiol derived from testosterone programs later male sexual behavior.[112]
This is one of many types of constricting devices placed at the base of the penis to diminish venous outflow and improve the quality and duration of the erection. This is particularly useful in men who have a venous leak and are only able to obtain partial erections that they are unable to maintain. These constricting devices may be used in conjunction with oral agents, injection therapy, and vacuum devices.
^ Mehta PH, Jones AC, Josephs RA (Jun 2008). "The social endocrinology of dominance: basal testosterone predicts cortisol changes and behavior following victory and defeat" (PDF). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 94 (6): 1078–93. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.336.2502. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.94.6.1078. PMID 18505319. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 19, 2009.

It is normal for a man to have five to six erections during sleep, especially during rapid eye movement (REM). Their absence may indicate a problem with nerve function or blood supply in the penis. There are two methods for measuring changes in penile rigidity and circumference during nocturnal erection: snap gauge and strain gauge. A significant proportion of men who have no sexual dysfunction nonetheless do not have regular nocturnal erections.


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.
Testosterone replacement therapy may improve energy, mood, and bone density, increase muscle mass and weight, and heighten sexual interest in older men who may have deficient levels of testosterone. Testosterone supplementation is not recommended for men who have normal testosterone levels for their age group due to the risk of prostate enlargement and other side effects. Testosterone replacement therapy is available as a cream or gel, topical solution, skin patch, injectable form and pellet form placed under the skin.
Both testosterone and 5α-DHT are metabolized mainly in the liver.[1][147] Approximately 50% of testosterone is metabolized via conjugation into testosterone glucuronide and to a lesser extent testosterone sulfate by glucuronosyltransferases and sulfotransferases, respectively.[1] An additional 40% of testosterone is metabolized in equal proportions into the 17-ketosteroids androsterone and etiocholanolone via the combined actions of 5α- and 5β-reductases, 3α-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, and 17β-HSD, in that order.[1][147][148] Androsterone and etiocholanolone are then glucuronidated and to a lesser extent sulfated similarly to testosterone.[1][147] The conjugates of testosterone and its hepatic metabolites are released from the liver into circulation and excreted in the urine and bile.[1][147][148] Only a small fraction (2%) of testosterone is excreted unchanged in the urine.[147]
In addition to its role as a natural hormone, testosterone is used as a medication, for instance in the treatment of low testosterone levels in men and breast cancer in women.[10] Since testosterone levels decrease as men age, testosterone is sometimes used in older men to counteract this deficiency. It is also used illicitly to enhance physique and performance, for instance in athletes.
Testosterone is also important for maintaining bone strength and lean muscle mass in women, as well as contributing to overall well-being and energy levels. This hormone plays a key role in a woman’s sex drive and is responsible for enhancing sexual pleasure during intercourse. However, the levels of testosterone produced by females is still between ten and times less than the amount produced by men.
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]
One of the first steps is to distinguish between physiological and psychological ED. Determining whether involuntary erections are present is important in eliminating the possibility of psychogenic causes for ED.[1] Obtaining full erections occasionally, such as nocturnal penile tumescence when asleep (that is, when the mind and psychological issues, if any, are less present), tends to suggest that the physical structures are functionally working.[19][20] Similarly, performance with manual stimulation, as well as any performance anxiety or acute situational ED, may indicate a psychogenic component to ED.[1]
When a man becomes sexually excited, muscles in their penis relax. This relaxation allows for increased blood flow through the penile arteries. This blood fills two chambers inside the penis called the corpora cavernosa. As the chambers fill with blood, the penis grows rigid. Erection ends when the muscles contract and the accumulated blood can flow out through the penile veins.

Between 10 and 88% of patients diagnosed with cancer experience sexual problems following diagnosis and treatment. The prevalence varies according to the location and type of cancer, and the treatment modalities used. Sexuality may be affected by chemotherapy, alterations in body image due to weight change, hair loss or surgical disfigurement, hormonal changes, and cancer treatments that directly affect the pelvic region.
Cavernosography measurement of the vascular pressure in the corpus cavernosum. Saline is infused under pressure into the corpus cavernosum with a butterfly needle, and the flow rate needed to maintain an erection indicates the degree of venous leakage. The leaking veins responsible may be visualized by infusing a mixture of saline and x-ray contrast medium and performing a cavernosogram.[21] In Digital Subtraction Angiography (DSA), the images are acquired digitally.
Some men report being helped by an oral medication called yohimbine, which comes from the bark of a tree that grows in India and Africa. This drug, which needs to be taken every day, has been reported to help about 20 to 25 percent of the men taking it. A relatively new but widely used oral medication called Viagra requires a careful medical evaluation by your doctor.
The development of an erection is a complex event involving integration of psychologic, neurologic, endocrine, vascular, and local anatomic systems. Positron emission tomography scanning studies have suggested that sexual arousal is activated in higher cortical centers that then stimulate the medial preoptic and paraventricular nuclei of the hypothalamus.5 These signals ultimately descend through a complex neural network involving the parasympathetic nervous system and eventually activate parasympathetic nerves in the sacral area (S2 to S4).
"The hard part," said Dr. Anawalt, "is the man who is 50 pounds overweight and sedentary, who sees a TV ad and goes to see his doctor. Let's say he has a thoughtful doctor who does the right test, at the right time of day (morning), and the test comes back low. Many of these guys will have low or slightly low testosterone. We have no evidence for whether or not it's a benefit to give these guys testosterone." He added that concern about their testosterone level could be a good thing if it spurs men to lose weight and exercise. "A low testosterone level can be a marker of poor health," he said.
Sexual dysfunction is highly prevalent in men and women. In the MMAS, 52% of the respondents reported some degree of erectile difficulty. Complete ED, defined as (1) the total inability to obtain or maintain an erection during sexual stimulation and (2) the absence of nocturnal erections, occurred in 10% of the respondents. Mild and moderate ED occurred in 17% and 25% of responders, respectively. [15]
There's the rub, so to speak. Recalling the cautionary lessons learned about sex steroid hormone therapy in postmenopausal women from theWomen's Health Initiative, Dr. Brad Anawalt wrote in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, "We are threatened with a reprise of promiscuous prescription of sex steroid hormone therapy in aging men, obese men, diabetic men, and other groups of men with a high prevalence of low serum androgen levels. We are threatened with a mad 'T' party."

ED usually has something physical behind it, particularly in older men. But psychological factors can be a factor in many cases of ED. Experts say stress, depression, poor self-esteem, and performance anxiety can short-circuit the process that leads to an erection. These factors can also make the problem worse in men whose ED stems from something physical.


4. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Erectile dysfunction (updated Nov 2015). https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/urologic-disease/erectile-dysfunction/Pages/facts.aspx (accessed Nov 2016). myDr myDr provides comprehensive Australian health and medical information, images and tools covering symptoms, diseases, tests, medicines and treatments, and nutrition and fitness.Related ArticlesImpotence causesFind out the physical and psychological causes of impotence, also called erectile dysfunction or ED.Erectile dysfunction: visiting your doctorFind out what questions a doctor may ask when discussing erectile dysfunction (ED, or impotence8 Surprising causes of erectile dysfunctionOccasional erectile dysfunction is not uncommon, but if it's persistent, erectile dysfunction caAdvertisement

This evidence, together with the beneficial effects of testosterone replacement on central obesity and diabetes, raises the question whether testosterone treatment could be beneficial in preventing or treating atherosclerosis. No trial of sufficient size or duration has investigated the effect of testosterone replacement in primary or secondary prevention cardiovascular disease. The absence of such data leads us to examine the relationship of testosterone to other cardiovascular risk factors, such as adverse lipid parameters, blood pressure, endothelial dysfunction, coagulation factors, inflammatory markers and cytokines. This analysis can supply evidence of the likely effects of testosterone on overall cardiovascular risk. This has limitations, however, including the potential for diverging effects of testosterone on the various factors involved and the resultant impossibility of accurately predicting the relative impact of such changes.
The Massachusetts Male Aging Study (MMAS) documented an inverse correlation between ED risk and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels but did not identify any effect from elevated total cholesterol levels. [15] Another study involving male subjects aged 45-54 years found a correlation with abnormal HDL cholesterol levels but also found a correlation with elevated total cholesterol levels. The MMAS included a preponderance of older men.
Cosgrove et al reported a higher rate of sexual dysfunction in veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than in veterans who did not develop this problem. [42] The domains on the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) questionnaire that demonstrated the most change included overall sexual satisfaction and erectile function. [43, 44] Men with PTSD should be evaluated and treated if they have sexual dysfunction.
Conflicting results have been obtained concerning the importance of testosterone in maintaining cardiovascular health.[29][30] Nevertheless, maintaining normal testosterone levels in elderly men has been shown to improve many parameters that are thought to reduce cardiovascular disease risk, such as increased lean body mass, decreased visceral fat mass, decreased total cholesterol, and glycemic control.[31]

The aim of treatment for hypogonadism is to normalize serum testosterone levels and abolish symptoms or pathological states that are due to low testosterone levels. The exact target testosterone level is a matter of debate, but current recommendations advocate levels in the mid-lower normal adult range (Nieschlag et al 2005). Truly physiological testosterone replacement would require replication of the diurnal rhythm of serum testosterone levels, but there is no current evidence that this is beneficial (Nieschlag et al 2005).
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]

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There is a polymorphic CAG repeat sequence in the androgen receptor gene, which codes for a variable number of glutamine amino acids in the part of the receptor affecting gene transcription. A receptor with a short CAG sequence produces greater activity when androgens attach, and men with shorter CAG polymorphisms exhibit androgenic traits, such as preserved bone density (Zitzmann et al 2001) and prostate growth during testosterone treatment (Zitzmann et al 2003). Indirect evidence of the importance of androgens in the development of prostate cancer is provided by case control study findings of a shorter, more active CAG repeat sequence in the androgen receptor gene of patients with prostate cancer compared with controls (Hsing et al 2000, 2002).
Associated morbidity may include various other male sexual dysfunctions, such as premature (early) ejaculation and male hypoactive sexual desire disorder. The NHSLS found that 28.5% of men aged 18-59 years reported premature ejaculation, and 15.8% lacked sexual interest during the past year. An additional 17% reported anxiety about sexual performance, and 8.1% had a lack of pleasure in sex. [51]
In a randomized double-blind, parallel, placebo-controlled trial, sildenafil plus testosterone was not superior to sildenafil plus placebo in improving erectile function in men with ED and low testosterone levels. [19] The objective of the study was to determine whether the addition of testosterone to sildenafil therapy improves erectile response in men with ED and low testosterone levels.

Erectile dysfunction (previously called impotence) is the inability to get or maintain an erection that is sufficient to ensure satisfactory sex for both partners. This problem can cause significant distress for couples. Fortunately more and more men of all ages are seeking help, and treatment for ED has advanced rapidly. The enormous demand for “anti-impotence” drugs suggests that erection problems may be more common than was previously thought. Find out more about the causes and treatment of erectile dysfunction here.


"One of the reasons erectile dysfunction increases with age is that the diseases that lead to it also increase with age," notes Dr. Feloney. Evaluating the causes of erectile dysfunction starts with your doctor taking a good health history and giving you a physical exam. Common medical issues that can lead to erectile dysfunction include diabetes, high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, low testosterone, and neurological disease. Talk to your doctor about better managing these health conditions.
ICI therapy often produces a reliable erection, which comes down after 20-30 minutes or with climax. Since the ICI erection is not regulated by your penile nerves, you should not be surprised if the erection lasts after orgasm. The most common side effect of ICI therapy is a prolonged erection. Prolonged erections (>1 hour) can be reversed by a second injection (antidote) in the office.
^ Mehta PH, Jones AC, Josephs RA (Jun 2008). "The social endocrinology of dominance: basal testosterone predicts cortisol changes and behavior following victory and defeat" (PDF). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 94 (6): 1078–93. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.336.2502. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.94.6.1078. PMID 18505319. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 19, 2009.
Failure to achieve an erection is not uncommon for most men and may be considered normal even if it happens as often as 20 percent of the time. There is a wide range of normal when it comes to sexual functioning and sexual relationships. "Generally if a couple feels comfortable with their sex life and they enjoy intimacy together, erectile dysfunction may not be much of an issue. But if erectile dysfunction is causing stress in a relationship, then help is available," says Feloney.

Following a detailed discussion about the history of erectile dysfunction and its risk factors, your doctor will examine the testicles and penis to help determine the cause of erectile dysfunction. Your doctor will check reflexes and pulses in the area to see if problems with blood vessels or nerves are contributing to the erectile dysfunction. If necessary, your doctor will order tests to help diagnose erectile dysfunction.

While pills for ED are convenient, some men sustain stronger erections by injecting medication directly into the penis. Drugs approved for this purpose work by widening the blood vessels, causing the penis to become engorged with blood. Another option is inserting a medicated pellet into the urethra. The pellet can trigger an erection within 10 minutes.
Think of erectile dysfunction as your body’s “check engine light.” The blood vessels in the penis are smaller than other parts of the body, so underlying conditions like blocked arteries, heart disease, or high blood pressure usually show up as ED before something more serious like a heart attack or stroke. ED is your body’s way of saying, “Something is wrong.” And the list of things that cause erectile dysfunction can include:
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