Healthy Living

Erectile Dysfunction: Is Hormone Therapy Right for Me?

Erectile Dysfunction: Is Hormone Therapy Right for Me?

Erectile dysfunction (ED) affects the ability of a man to have an erection and maintain it long enough to have a satisfying sexual experience. There are certain times when a man may not fully rise to the occasion during sexual intercourse, and this can be due to other factors aside from ED.

Testosterone is a hormone in men that influences their desire for sex (libido). As men grow older, the level of testosterone in their body decreases, especially, after the age of 50. A decline in testosterone levels affects their libido, and hence they tend to have less desire for sex. If this is the case, then the man may want to visit a doctor for treatment. One of the treatments that may be offered is hormone treatment to increase your testosterone levels.

Is ED caused by a decrease in testosterone?

ED is a condition that rarely involves hormones. It is primarily associated with decreased blood flow to the penis. The hormone testosterone does not affect the flow of blood to the penis, and therefore it is ruled out as a cause for erectile dysfunction. Treatments of erectile dysfunction will therefore involve both; ways of improving blood flow to your penis and medications to increase the hormone levels. To understand this, you need to know how an erection occurs.

How does an erection take place?

When you get sexually aroused, the brain sends signals to the nerves in your penis and this leads to the production of chemicals known as neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters in turn influence the production of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP). This chemical is responsible for the dilation (widening) of the arteries, and it allows more blood to flow into the penis.

When the chambers in the penis are filled with blood, it becomes firm and erect. The veins get pressed against the skin by the swollen inner parts of the penis and this hinders outflow of blood from the penis to maintain an erection. After sexual intercourse, cGMP levels go down and the blood flows out of the penis returning it to its normal position.

Why does ED occur?

Erectile dysfunction is usually caused by a narrowing of the blood vessels in the penis. Narrowing of blood vessels can restrict the flow of blood into the penis, and there will be insufficient blood to enable an erection. Several factors can lead to constrictions and blockages in the blood vessels. High cholesterol levels, smoking or diabetes can cause choking or clogging of arteries; this condition called atherosclerosis can lead to erectile dysfunction. Atherosclerosis initially affects the smaller and finer blood vessels in the penis and should be taken as the first sign of choking of arteries that can lead to other serious ailments.

Conditions like high blood pressure, alcohol and drug abuse and basically anything that affects the blood vessels can lead to erectile dysfunction. Besides atherosclerosis, diabetic neuropathy can cause damage to the nerves and is known to be one of the common causes of erectile dysfunction. Age can also affect the problem as the likelihood of developing other ailments like heart or kidney disorder, which can lead to the symptoms of erectile dysfunction, increases. Prescription drugs are another factor that has often been found to be the culprit in cases of erectile dysfunction.

Hormonal disorders

Hormonal disorders like thyroid conditions can also affect the levels of testosterone in the body. Testosterone is the male sex hormone that controls sexual drive. A deficiency of the hormone can be one of the causes of erectile dysfunction

Surgical complications, radiation therapy for pelvic disorders, structural and anatomical disorders of the penis such as peyronie disease, and injuries to the spinal cord or the pelvic region also contribute to erectile dysfunction.

An analysis of the causes of erectile dysfunction highlights that hormone levels can be a contributing factor only in a small fraction of cases. Most individuals encountering the problem are usually affected by the other causes of erectile dysfunction, with a blocking of blood vessels being the chief cause.

Diagnosing and treating erectile dysfunction 

A holistic treatment of erectile dysfunction should initially involve a correct diagnosis of the reason of the disorder. The course of the treatment should be picked up from there. Whether a hormone therapy is required or not, or whether it can be used with a combination of other treatments, should be decided by the doctor after a consideration of the underlying causes.


Which types of treatment are available?

There are several types of treatments that are available to improve blood flow to the penis in order to help ease the problem of erectile dysfunction.

  • Taking of oral drugs such as viagra, avanafil, and tadalafil help in increasing the blood flow to the penis as they affect the cGMP levels. They are known as PDE inhibitors. They are usually taken around an hour before sex and for them to work you must be sexually aroused. However, they should not be used by people taking other medications such as blood thinners or drugs used to treat angina. Consult your doctor before you start using them. Alprostadil, a hormone that increases blood flow to the penis is also prescribed in a few cases.
  • There are also injections that are administered before sexual intercourse. The injection is done at the base of the penis and causes an erection within fifteen minutes. They also work by increasing blood flow to the penis.
  • Vacuum pumps and other mechanical devices that increase blood flow to the penis can also be considered as a treatment option.
  • Counseling by a psychiatrist can be considered to rule out causes like depression, anxiety and performance pressure. Counseling can also help to resolve relationship issues that might be precipitating the disorder.
  • Lifestyle changes that include reducing weight, exercising, cutting off smoking or drug abuse, and so on might help with the condition. 
  • Penile implants or surgery for structural disorders or injuries can help.
  • Hormone therapy to increase testosterone levels in the body can be used in attempt to maintain an erection. 
  • There are also natural substances that can help improve blood flow to the penis when consumed. These include the red ginseng of Asia and pomegranate juice. They have been found to have chemicals that help ease blood flow within the body. However, they should not be solely relied upon as a treatment for ED but rather as supplements.

The bottom line

Before viagra hit the medical community with a new line of treatment for erectile dysfunction, hormone therapy aimed at increasing the levels of testosterone in the body was regularly being used for the treatment of erectile dysfunction. However, it failed to produce the desired effect. A more holistic approach to treating erectile dysfunction after properly diagnosing the cause of the situation is the best way to go in order to determine a treatment regimen that will work best for each individual.