Studies have demonstrated reduced testosterone levels in men with heart failure as well as other endocrine changes (Tappler and Katz 1979; Kontoleon et al 2003). Treatment of cardiac failure with chronic mechanical circulatory support normalizes many of these changes, including testosterone levels (Noirhomme et al 1999). More recently, two double-blind randomized controlled trials of testosterone treatment for men with low or low-normal serum testosterone levels and heart failure have shown improvements in exercise capacity and symptoms (Pugh et al 2004; Malkin et al 2006). The mechanism of these benefits is currently unclear, although a study of the acute effects of buccal testosterone given to men with chronic cardiac failure under invasive monitoring showed that testosterone increased cardiac index and reduced systemic vascular resistance (Pugh et al 2003). Testosterone may prove useful in the management of cardiac failure but further research is needed.
Testosterone fluctuates according to age and life circumstance, often plummeting at the onset of parenthood, and spiking (for some) during moments of triumph. Romantic relationships, too, can impact a person’s testosterone production; though the reasons are still not fully understood, entering a relationship tends to increase women’s testosterone levels, while decreasing men’s. Since males produce significantly more testosterone than females—about 20 times more each day—females can be more sensitive to these fluctuations. High levels of testosterone, particularly in men, have been correlated with a greater likelihood of getting divorced or engaging in extramarital affairs, though a causal link has not been established.
When your testosterone levels go up, so does your libido. Unfortunately, the inverse is not true — your libido levels can go up without your testosterone levels also going up. And that’s how most supposed T-boosters “work”: they make you feel ornery, leading you to think that your T levels are appreciably higher, when they actually aren’t. In rare cases, supplementation will result in a 20% testosterone increase. This kind of improvement may sound impressive, but is irrelevant for practical purposes.
In addition to conjugation and the 17-ketosteroid pathway, testosterone can also be hydroxylated and oxidized in the liver by cytochrome P450 enzymes, including CYP3A4, CYP3A5, CYP2C9, CYP2C19, and CYP2D6. 6β-Hydroxylation and to a lesser extent 16β-hydroxylation are the major transformations. The 6β-hydroxylation of testosterone is catalyzed mainly by CYP3A4 and to a lesser extent CYP3A5 and is responsible for 75 to 80% of cytochrome P450-mediated testosterone metabolism. In addition to 6β- and 16β-hydroxytestosterone, 1β-, 2α/β-, 11β-, and 15β-hydroxytestosterone are also formed as minor metabolites. Certain cytochrome P450 enzymes such as CYP2C9 and CYP2C19 can also oxidize testosterone at the C17 position to form androstenedione.
Total levels of testosterone in the body are 264 to 916 ng/dL in men age 19 to 39 years, while mean testosterone levels in adult men have been reported as 630 ng/dL. Levels of testosterone in men decline with age. In women, mean levels of total testosterone have been reported to be 32.6 ng/dL. In women with hyperandrogenism, mean levels of total testosterone have been reported to be 62.1 ng/dL.
Low testosterone levels may contribute to decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction, fragile bones, and other health issues. Having low testosterone levels may also indicate an underlying medical condition. See your doctor if you suspect you have low testosterone. A simple blood test is all it takes to check if your testosterone falls within the normal range.
Sleep apnea is another frequently listed contraindication to testosterone treatment. There have been a few reports of the development, or worsening, of sleep apnea during testosterone therapy (Matsumoto et al 1985) but sleep apnea is actually associated with lower serum testosterone levels (Luboshitzky et al 2002). The reduction in fat mass during treatment with testosterone could potentially be beneficial for sleep apnea, so many specialists will still consider patients for treatment with appropriate monitoring. It is wise to take a clinical history for sleep apnea during testosterone treatment in all men and perform sleep studies in those who develop symptoms.
Some of the effects of testosterone treatment are well recognised and it seems clear that testosterone treatment for aging hypogonadal men can be expected to increase lean body mass, decrease visceral fat mass, increase bone mineral density and decrease total cholesterol. Beneficial effects have been seen in many trials on other parameters such as glycemic control in diabetes, erectile dysfunction, cardiovascular risk factors, angina, mood and cognition. These potentially important effects require confirmation in larger clinical trials. Indeed, it is apparent that longer duration randomized controlled trials of testosterone treatment in large numbers of men are needed to confirm the effects of testosterone on many aspects of aging male health including cardiovascular health, psychiatric health, prostate cancer and functional capacity. In the absence of such studies, it is necessary to balance risk and benefit on the best available data. At the present time the data supports the treatment of hypogonadal men with testosterone to normalize testosterone levels and improve symptoms. Most men with hypogonadism do not have a contraindication to treatment, but it is important to monitor for adverse consequences including prostate complications and polycythemia.
Testosterone insufficiency has been associated with HIV infection in men (Dobs et al 1988). Early reports suggested that testosterone therapy may have an ameliorating effect on both depression and decreased energy in HIV infected men, even if testosterone levels were not reduced (Rabkin et al 1999; Grinspoon et al 2000; Rabkin et al 2000). Both depression and fatigue, however, are common features of HIV-positive men and may be associated with factors other than reduced levels of testosterone. The disease itself may induce depression and fatigue may be a consequence of the disease, per se, or of some of the medications used to control HIV.
In males, the testosterone test can help find the reason for sexual problems, like reduced sex drive or erectile dysfunction. If you’re having a hard time getting your partner pregnant, the test can tell if your blood testosterone level is low. It can also screen for problems with the hypothalamus or pituitary gland. This controls how much testosterone your body makes.
Testosterone is everywhere playing multiple roles from intrauterine life to advanced age. Table 1, the contents of which are always undergoing change primarily because of newly observed associations, provides an overview of the bodily systemic functions and patho-physiological states in which testosterone finds itself implicated. In some of these states there is a clear physiological cause and effect relationship. In others, evidence of the physiological role is early or tenuous.
Hypogonadism is a disease in which the body is unable to produce normal amounts of testosterone due to a problem with the testicles or with the pituitary gland that controls the testicles. Testosterone replacement therapy can improve the signs and symptoms of low testosterone in these men. Doctors may prescribe testosterone as injections, pellets, patches or gels.