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Health & Sex

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When a Man's Sex Drive Is Too Low

The male libido is always in overdrive, right? Wrong -- one out of five men actually have a low sex drive.

The causes of low sex drive continued...

Low dopamine levels. Sexual desire obviously involves the brain -- and the brain's chemical messaging system is intimately linked to sexual desire. One of those messengers is dopamine. Doctors have noted that Parkinson's disease patients treated with dopamine-stimulating drugs had increased sexual desire. Goldstein says these drugs help some men with HSDD.

Each cause of low sexual desire has its own treatment. When the root cause is psychological, sex therapy can offer men specific techniques and strategies for regaining their enjoyment of sex. "It is not psychotherapy; it is psychology counseling focused on sexual issues," Goldstein explains.

In cases where the problem is low testosterone, men can take testosterone supplements if they have measurably low levels. About 25% of men go for weekly testosterone shots, Goldstein says, but most opt for skin patches or gel formulations applied directly to the skin of the chest, shoulders, or abdomen.

When Goldstein suspects low dopamine levels are at the heart of a man's low sexual desire, he might prescribe dopamine-increasing drugs, though this treatment is not currently approved by the FDA and has risks.

However, a new drug now in clinical trials -- for women -- does increase dopamine levels while decreasing a specific kind of serotonin in the brain. Early clinical studies suggest the drug could help women with low sexual desire. Goldstein thinks this new treatment has promise. And if it's approved for women, he says, it will likely be tested in men.

In the end, the choice for men who've lost their desire for sex is not between being a panting sexual animal and being a eunuch. Instead, the real choice is whether these men are ready to regain a vital source of intimacy with their partners -- and a key part of a healthy life for themselves.

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Reviewed on May 21, 2009

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