Erectile dysfunction in aging men: testosterone role in therapeutic protocols

N Caretta, A Ferlin, P F Palego, C Foresta
Journal of Endocrinological Investigation 2005, 28 (11): 108-11
Aging in men is accompanied by a decrease in libido and sexual activity. Recently, it has been demonstrated that a significant proportion of men >60 yr of age has biochemical hypogonadism. Hypoandrogenism, which is associated with other conditions that negatively influence erectile activity, may be an important cofactor in the induction of erectile dysfunction and in the response to phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitors in aging. In these patients, administration of 50 mg sildenafil or 3 mg apomorphine has no influence on erectile function. Recently we showed that, in hypogonadal subjects, testosterone treatment might stimulate endothelial and neuronal production of vasoactive substances like nitric oxide (NO). Furthermore it can improve endothelial repair mechanisms by increasing bone marrow-derived endothelial progenitor cell (EPC) number in the peripheral circulation. Finally, the normal response to pharmacological stimulation with apomorphine or sildenafil, observed in hypogonadal men treated with testosterone, indicates a positive role of this hormone in the central and peripheral control of erection, confirming the possible positive influence on endothelial function and PDE5 expression. Therefore, we suggest measuring plasma testosterone levels in aged men with erectile dysfunction and recommend treating them barring clinical contraindications. Testosterone plus PDE5 inhibitors may be beneficial in improving erectile function in hypogonadal men with erectile dysfunction who were unresponsive to PDE5 inhibitors alone.

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