Testosterone Therapy Trial Shows Improvement in Sexual Function in Older Men

Testosterone Therapy Improvement in Sexual Function

Testosterone Therapy Improvement in Sexual FunctionAs a result of aging, men’s testosterone levels will drop. It’s a slow, gradual decline, but it’s going to happen, and this can result in a loss of both sexual function and interest in sex. It can also, understandably, result in distress for some older men. Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone, responsible for sexual drive, sperm production, and erectile function.

So what can be done about it, if anything? It’s possible that testosterone therapy may hold the answer. It’s not necessarily a new thing, as testosterone therapy has been used for over 70 years, but a study published recently in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism has revealed some specifics on how this therapy works in aging men. In fact, this is the largest testosterone therapy study done to date, and it’s a part of a larger series of trials called the Testosterone Trials.

In this study, 470 men aged 65 or older used a testosterone gel or a placebo gel over the course of a year, and reported results every three months via a questionnaire. All the men had low testosterone levels, regular partners, and stated that they had low libidos at the outset. The results showed that after using the gel, 10 out of 12 sexual measurements changed for the better, including improvements in sexual daydreams, anticipation of sex, orgasm, masturbation, nighttime spontaneous erections, and erectile response to sexual activity. There were no changes in the men who used the placebo gel.

It should be noted that the study was funded by pharmaceutical company that makes a testosterone gel (which it also provided, as well as the placebo gel), and that could set off some alarm bells for some, because it’s possible that bias may have skewed the results. But also of importance is that this trial used the gold standard of scientific trials: it was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. That’s about as unbiased as it gets. This study is also supported by the National Institutes of Health.

There are also risks inherent in the therapy, as testosterone can increase the risk of prostate cancer or heart disease. Those who have had a stroke or a heart attack recently shouldn’t use testosterone therapy because the hormone is known to make blood thicker. And yet, perhaps not unsurprisingly, some older men involved in the study were OK with the trade-off of gaining an increase in libido and improving erectile dysfunction and losing a few months off their lifespan. To that end, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has ordered clinical trials to evaluate the health risks involved in testosterone replacement therapy.

In the last decade and a half, testosterone therapy use has gone up by a considerable margin—it’s practically quadrupled—but in an aging population, this doesn’t exactly come as a shock. Still, it’s not a fountain of youth. Older men are not going to suddenly find themselves grappling with the sex drive they had in their teen years, but it seems that testosterone therapy does produce a considerable improvement in sexual function and desire.

Sources for Today’s Article:

Snyder, P.J., et al., “Testosterone Treatment and Sexual Function in Older Men with Low Testosterone Levels,” The Journal of Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2016; doi:10.1210/jc.2016-1645.

Newman, T., “Testosterone May Be Key to Maintaining Sexual Function in Older Men,” Medical News Today web site, July 1, 2016; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/311344.php, last accessed July 5, 2016.