If you are a man diagnosed with erectile dysfunction (ED), it is important to understand the cause of ED before considering testosterone treatment. Testosterone treatment usually isn’t helpful for ED and can expose you to many risks and side effects, according to Dr. David Hall, a Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group double board-certified internal medicine and pediatrics doctor.
“After age 50, testosterone levels in men slowly decrease, making erectile dysfunction more common,” he says. “However, erectile dysfunction by itself is not an indication for testosterone replacement. In addition, testosterone treatments don’t improve erections in men with normal testosterone levels.”
Why you should think twice about testosterone treatment for ED
Although low testosterone may affect the desire for sex, it rarely causes ED. ED is most frequently caused by decreased blood flow to the penis due to narrowing of the blood vessels or injury to the nerves.
Certain conditions, such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and diabetes can lead to damage of the arteries and nerves that supply the penis. Prescription medications that specifically increase blood flow can be more helpful than testosterone in restoring normal erectile function.
According to Dr. Hall, testosterone treatment can expose you to many side effects, such as excessive fluid retention, lower fertility and increased symptoms of sleep apnea.
“While testosterone treatment can cause acne, prostate enlargement or growth of breast tissue in men, there are also more serious risks,” says Dr. Hall. “Treatments may cause an increase in red blood cells that can lead to heart disease or blood clots. In addition, testosterone therapy has been associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke in certain, but not all, patients.”When to consider testosterone treatment for ED
Symptoms of low testosterone may include:
- Less of a sex drive
- Loss of body hair
- Breast tissue growth
- Decrease in need to shave
- Drop in muscle size and strength
- Bones that break more easily
At Sharp Rees-Stealy, we want to empower you to make well-informed choices about treatments when it comes to men’s health. That’s why we’ve made it our priority to support our doctors in helping you make smart and effective decisions by participating in Choosing Wisely®.
Choosing Wisely, an initiative of the ABIM Foundation, educates patients and doctors on selecting the most effective treatment available and avoiding unproductive, costly procedures. Sharp Rees-Stealy is the only medical group in Southern California to participate in this national campaign.