We tend to associate testosterone with male virility. Whether in pop culture or in TV advertisements for testosterone supplements, you’ve likely encountered the coupling of high testosterone with bigger muscles or increased sex drive.
This male sex hormone, made in the testicles, plays an important role in the development of sex organ tissues found in the testes and prostate and contributes to the growth of body hair. While responsible for a large part of adolescent development, men continue to produce testosterone well through adulthood.
While low testosterone production can contribute to erectile dysfunction, the relationship between testosterone and ED is complex and not fully understood at this time.
A Complicated Relationship
Erections are complex functions of the body and are dependent on many physical and psychological processes in order to take place. Due to this, when a man is experiencing ED, it can be difficult to point to one specific reason as the cause for the inability to get or maintain an erection.
Because testosterone production drops off in men after the age of 50 and we associate testosterone with male virility, we may be tempted to draw the conclusion that testosterone therapy would be a simple cure for men experiencing ED, but this isn’t necessarily the case. In men with normal levels of testosterone, testosterone treatment hasn’t been proven to reduce erectile dysfunction.
In fact, many men with low production of testosterone can produce an erection normally. Researchers and medical professionals believe that this is because erections aren’t solely caused by the levels of testosterone that are produced. While testosterone plays a role in sexual desire and function, there are many other factors that contribute to the ability to get and maintain an erection.
Lower Sex Drive
While low testosterone levels don’t directly cause erectile dysfunction, low testosterone can contribute to a lower sex drive in general. When combined with psychological causes of ED, these low levels of the sex hormone may be a tangential factor contributing to erectile dysfunction.
More often than not, sustained ED is the result of an underlying physical condition. Among the physical causes of ED are heart disease, atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, diabetes, or obesity. When it’s not the direct result of one of these disorders, it can be caused or exacerbated by psychological disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or stress. If you’re already struggling to achieve an erection, low testosterone levels resulting in a lower sex drive could potentially be contributing to your ED.
In order to combat low levels of testosterone, some may choose to undergo testosterone replacement therapy, but this addition of the hormone can actually have negative side effects that may even worsen ED. Some people who receive testosterone replacement experience negative effects, such as an enlarged prostate and sleep apnea symptoms, both of which are known to trigger or cause ED. So while an increase in testosterone can help to boost your sex drive and your overall desire to engage in sex, it may be detrimental to the physical processes that your body needs to do in order to get an erection.
If you and your doctor determine that your ED may be a result of a psychological disorder, testosterone replacement therapy may be an option. You should work with your doctor or urologist to rule out the physical causes of ED and make sure that replacement therapy is right for your health and condition.
While low levels of testosterone don’t affect the flow of blood to the penis, or the main physical factor of an erection, they can indirectly contribute to ED through decreased sexual desire. Low testosterone levels and ED have similar or even overlapping underlying causes. Those with low levels of testosterone may experience obesity, high blood pressure, or diabetes, which are all common contributing factors to ED.
If you’re having difficulties performing sexually for a sustained period of time, you should see your doctor. Often, sexual health issues can be an indication of something awry in our overall physical health or an underlying condition. Treating that condition can help treat erectile dysfunction and get you back to your normal sex life.
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