Study: Testosterone May Not Treat ED
Researchers Say Testosterone Replacement Therapy May Not Be Helpful for Erectile Dysfunction
Risks of Testosterone Supplements
There are risks attached to the use of testosterone, Sokol says. "This hormone may cause the prostate gland to increase in size, and there is also the theoretic risk that we can stimulate the growth of cancer cells in the prostate. We have been looking carefully to see if testosterone initiates prostate cancer and there is no data to indicate that it does at this point."
Testosterone may also increase levels of LDL "bad" cholesterol while decreasing levels of HDL "good" cholesterol, she says.
Men who are considering taking testosterone need to weigh the pros and cons carefully with their doctor.
"The patient really needs to be evaluated by a physician who is an expert in hormones and male reproduction," Sokol says. "The indication for treatment needs to be very clear and verified by evaluation and physical exam."
Checking for Low Levels of Testosterone
Part of the problem is that men are getting their testosterone from non-expert sources, including their buddies in the gym and online, says Joseph P. Alukal, MD. He is an assistant professor of urology and the director of male reproductive health at New York University's Langone Medical Center in New York City.
Testosterone replacement does have a role in treating some men with erectile dysfunction who also have low levels of the hormone, he says. "Testosterone is one of the treatments we have, but it's not the only one."
The first step is to measure a man's testosterone levels to see if they are low. This needs to be done on more than one occasion to make sure the results are accurate, he says.
If levels are low, and there are no other health problems that may be causing the problems with sexual functioning, testosterone replacement therapy is an option, Alukal tells WebMD.
In some men, ED can be a red flag for heart problems. In these cases, men will likely need to see a cardiologist, he says.
"Hormones are powerful," Alukal says. "They have tremendous benefits and significant risks, so to go on them requires proper monitoring by a physician who understands their risks and benefits and knows how to monitor men."