Testosterone, the primary Male Sex Hormone, plays a key role in regulating the sex drive in both men and women but has little direct effect on erectile function.
Although present in women as well as men although at significantly lower levels, testosterone regulates the development of male reproductive tissues, including the prostate and testes. It also promotes the development of secondary sexual characteristics, such as the growth of body hair and increased bone and muscle mass.
Blood Flow Key to Erectile Function
An inability to get and keep an erection firm and long-lasting enough for intercourse is most often caused by insufficient blood flow to the penis and not a deficiency in testosterone. Many men with low blood levels of the male sex hormone continue to enjoy normal erectile function, while others whose testosterone levels are high may encounter erection problems wholly unrelated to hormonal issues.
As previously noted, testosterone does play an important role in regulating sexual desire, so men who are experiencing a persistent lack of interest in sex might want to have their T-levels checked to see if that could be an issue. If your doctor determines that you’re a candidate for Testosterone Replacement Therapy, this form of treatment could over time fire up your libido, without which an erection has little or no real purpose.
Low-T Rarely Causes ED
According to WebMD.com, low testosterone by itself rarely causes ED, noting that most erection problems are caused by atherosclerosis, a gradual buildup of fatty plaque on artery walls that impedes blood flow to the penis.
Somewhat confusing the relationship between testosterone levels and erectile function is the fact that many chronic medical conditions that are causally linked to ED are also associated with reduced levels of the male sex hormone. Such conditions include type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and heart disease.
Hormone Levels Drop as You Age
Testosterone production tends to decrease gradually as a man ages, so it’s not surprising to find that T-levels in older men are typically lower than those in younger men. According to Urology Care Foundation, the official foundation of the American Urological Association, roughly 40 percent of men over the age of 45 suffer from some degree of low testosterone, a condition also known as hypogonadism.
The warning signs of hypogonadism, or low-T, include both sexual and nonsexual symptoms. Sexual symptoms include a low sex drive and a consequent deterioration in erectile function, as well as a decline in the volume of semen, the milky fluid that contains sperm cells. Nonsexual symptoms can include anemia, depression, hair loss, fatigue, loss of calcium from bones, reduced muscle mass, and an increase in body fat.
Is T-Replacement Therapy for You?
If testing confirms that your T-levels are low, you will want to carefully consider your options before embarking on a program of testosterone replacement therapy. According to an article from Consumer Reports that was published at ChoosingWisely.org, this form of hormonal replacement therapy has a number of risks. These can include:
- Retention of fluids and subsequent weight gain
- Enlargement of breasts
- Enlargement of prostate gland
- Increased risk of developing acne
- Decreased fertility
- A worsening of sleep apnea symptoms
- An increase in red blood cells that can lead to heart disease
Therapy Can Be Expensive
On top of those adverse side effects, testosterone replacement therapy is relatively expensive and can be delivered in a number of different ways, including injections, transdermal patches, and topical gels. The latter is the most popular form of T-replacement therapy. According to the CR article, the gel costs from $250 to more than $500 per month, while transdermal patches run from $200 to more than $400 a month. Injections, by far the least expensive delivery method, cost about $40 a month.
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