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Viagra for low testosterone

Published: 23:10 BST, 3 August 2015 | Updated: 08:27 BST, 4 August 2015

'As much as half of the Viagra prescribed to men will not work on its own because their real problem is low testosterone' [file photo]

Like many of his generation, Rodney Hylton-Potts is defying conventional ideas about ageing. 

At 69, he works full-time as a divorce lawyer, goes to the gym most mornings, plays golf once a week and has several foreign holidays a year.

But when he hit his 60s, there was one thing that started to dwindle.

'About five years ago, I noticed my interest in sex was reducing,' says Rodney, who lives in West London with his partner and has five children from previous relationships.

'My partner is 16 years younger than me and very attractive, so I decided to do something about it.'

At the time, he was taking the PDE-5 inhibitor sildenafil, better known as Viagra, which improves erections by relaxing the smooth muscles of the penis and increasing blood flow.

But Rodney says what's really made the difference is another treatment: injections of testosterone.

Determined to improve his low libido, he went to a private Harley Street clinic that specialises in male health and, after blood tests and a discussion about his symptoms, was diagnosed with low testosterone.

'I was surprised when the doctor started asking about my mood,' says Rodney. 

But he says the jabs have given him a new lease of life. 

'My interest in sex is renewed,' he says. 'Viagra's reputation speaks for itself, but it's irrelevant if what's slipping is libido.

'A woman can forgive a man who is getting on a bit, but she might find it more difficult to excuse him losing interest in all her efforts.

'The other interesting thing about testosterone is it has an impact on your personality. There's no question I'm less grumpy and less irritable. My partner thinks my doctor deserves a peerage.'

There is no doubt the arrival of PDE-5 inhibitors such as Viagra, Cialis and Levitra have had a major effect on the nation's sex life. 

The number of prescriptions in England for sildenafil (including Viagra and other trade names it is sold under) and other PDE-5 inhibitors have soared from one million a decade ago to 1.7 million in 2014, according to statistics published last month by the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

The increase is largely due to the fact sildenafil came off patent in 2013, meaning it is significantly cheaper. 

This has led to a lowering of the threshold at which men can get the drug on the NHS - before, only men who suffered impotence as a side-effect of illness or those evaluated by a specialist could be given the pills on the NHS.

Now all men with serious impotence problems can be prescribed the drug. Experts say men feel less embarrassed to ask their GP for it.

Testosterone is responsible for men's energy, libido and sexual function, with many other important processes in the body... Levels are thought to start declining when a man is in his 40s [file photo]

But as Rodney's experience suggests, Viagra might not always be the answer. 

Professor Geoffrey Hackett, a sexual health specialist at Good Hope Hospital in Birmingham, believes as much as half of the sildenafil prescribed to men will not work on its own because their real problem is low testosterone.

Testosterone is responsible for men's energy, libido and sexual function, with many other important processes in the body. 

It is produced mainly in the testicles and levels are thought to start declining when a man is in his 40s.

Historically, testosterone injections or skin patches were only given to men with abnormally low levels due to a rare congenital condition, brain tumour or damage from chemotherapy.

Real reason for the mid-life doldrums

But some doctors believe that many of the issues men experience in middle age - such as low libido, erectile dysfunction, fatigue and poor mood - are down to falling levels of testosterone, and these can be corrected with testosterone replacement therapy in the form of injections or pellets.

Professor Hackett suggests one in five men with erectile dysfunction has a testosterone deficiency.

Viagra might work, at least for a while, but then the testosterone deficiency gets worse and the erectile dysfunction comes back

'All men with erectile dysfunction should have their testosterone measured and treated if it's low and associated with sexual dysfunction,' he says.

They may also need a PDE-5 inhibitor, such as Viagra.

'These are excellent drugs with benefits for the heart and blood vessels - and long may prescribing continue to increase. 

'But diagnosing and treating the cause is as important as treating the erectile dysfunction.'

Dr Malcolm Carruthers, of the Centre for Men's Health, believes that doctors should consider testosterone therapy when men report problems with sexual function.

'Viagra might work, at least for a while, but then the testosterone deficiency gets worse and the erectile dysfunction comes back,' he says.

Last week, Dr Carruthers published a study of data from 2,000 patients attending his clinics over the past 25 years, claiming 60 per cent of patients found their symptoms improved with testosterone therapy, rising to 90 per cent when a PDE-5 inhibitor was added (however, there was no control group, which is the gold standard for clinical trials).

Impotence linked to heart disease

Impotence can be an indicator of vascular disease, where arteries become narrowed [file photo]

Low testosterone is not the only potential underlying cause of erectile problems, says Professor Hackett.

Impotence can also be an indicator of vascular disease, where arteries become narrowed as a result of poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking and genetics.

THE DANGERS OF BUYING VIAGRA ONLINE...

Buying Viagra-type drugs on the internet can be risky. 

Not only is there a chance they are fake - an estimated eight out of ten pills are- but you could have an underlying serious health problem that's causing your erectile dysfunction, which will remain undiagnosed and untreated if you go straight on to Viagra, so could get worse.

'The main risk of treatment for erectile dysfunction without a medical consultation is that the cause of the problem, whether diabetes or high blood pressure, is not identified,' says Lorraine Grover, a psychosexual nurse specialist at the London Clinic. 

Viagra can also affect how other drugs work, including some antibiotics.

It's also not suitable if you have a serious kidney problem, low blood pressure or have just had a heart attack or stroke.

Patients and doctors should discuss this before beginning PDE-5 inhibitor treatment and, if necessary, a test such as an angiogram - where a special dye that shows up on an X-ray is injected into the arteries to reveal blockages - should be performed. 

Blocked arteries may require treatment with stents -tiny metal tubes that open it up.

Professor Hackett says low testosterone is not just a normal sign of ageing, and would like to see all over-50s screened for it, especially those with erectile dysfunction, diabetes and obesity. 

Under guidelines, low testosterone is defined as a reading below eight nanomoles per litre - the British Society for Sexual Medicine recommends if a man's levels are low, tests should be repeated several times over six months before starting treatment.

However, men with impotence are rarely tested for low testosterone on the NHS.

More and more men are having a boost

Despite this, testosterone replacement therapy is gaining ground in Britain. NHS prescriptions for it increased by nearly 90 per cent between 2000 and 2010, according to a study published in 2013 by a team at Newcastle University.

Over the same time, NHS spending on testosterone rose from £3.2 million to £11.7 million. However, it remains a controversial area.

In the U.S. - where 3 per cent of men over 40 reportedly take testosterone - concerns have been raised over side-effects, following studies suggesting there is a link with heart attacks and strokes.

NHS prescriptions for testosterone replacement therapy have increased [file photo]

It's thought that testosterone may increase the number of red blood cells, raising the risk of clotting.

Worryingly, researchers found some U.S. doctors were prescribing testosterone inappropriately, diagnosing a deficiency on the basis of vague symptom questionnaires without proper testing.

Testosterone levels fluctuate during the day and so should be measured in the morning and on more than one occasion to get an accurate picture.

In March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the benefits and safety of using testosterone in men with low levels due to ageing have not been established.

It said testosterone medicines should carry warnings about possible increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

SIGNS OF LOW TESTOSTERONE

Sex problems: loss of libido; erectile dysfunction even when taking Viagra. Testosterone is the main driver of sexual desire, which Viagra can't help.

  • Hot flushes and sweats; man boobs - as testosterone levels fall, the pituitary gland in the brain tries to make the testicles produce more. 'This comes at the cost of also making a lot more oestrogen,' says Dr Richard Quinton, a consultant endocrinologist at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne.
  • Intense fatigue; muscle weakness - testosterone is essential for maintaining muscle and bones.
  • Loss of self-confidence, depression, lethargy, anger, anxiety - testosterone plays a key role in male energy, mood, confidence and memory.

TEST YOUR LEVEL

Under guidelines from the British Society for Sexual Medicine (BSSM) men should be given a blood test if they have symptoms of low testosterone such as low libido, impotence and muscle weakness.

The test is given before breakfast, because testosterone levels change during the day (peaking in early morning) and are affected by food intake, stress and fatigue.

If your levels are low, you should be examined by a hormone specialist - an endocrinologist. 

The BSSM says any man with a testosterone reading below eight nanomoles per litre should then be treated.

So could it be bad for your heart?

Following a review last year, the European Medicines Agency said there is no consistent evidence of an increased risk with testosterone products.

However, it has called for them to carry warnings for those who might be at increased risk of heart disease or heart failure. 

The agency said: 'Product information should make it clear testosterone should only be used when an abnormally low level of the hormone has been confirmed by signs and symptoms and appropriate laboratory tests.

'Testosterone levels naturally fall with age, but restoration of these levels in healthy older men is not an authorised use of the medicine in the EU.'

Some critics say that while many middle-aged men do have lower than ideal levels of testosterone, it tends to be a result of lifestyle such as being overweight or heavy drinking, and that it is not appropriate to treat them with replacement therapy.

'Men's levels of testosterone fall with age, but we don't have the evidence to show that replacing their levels with those of a younger man has any benefit,' says Professor Richard Ross, an endocrinologist at Sheffield University. 

And with no high-quality, large-scale, long-term studies, we have to be conscious of the potential for side-effects, such as the cardiovascular effects indicated in some studies.'

But proponents such as Dr Carruthers and Dr Hackett say the evidence against testosterone treatment is flawed. 

Furthermore, untreated low testosterone is linked to poor health outcomes.

Earlier this year, a team from the University of Sheffield reported testosterone has an important role in how the body metabolises sugar and fat, and restoring depleted levels could potentially reduce deaths from type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Professor Hackett says men suffering with sexual symptoms as a result of testosterone deficiency are losing their wives and families.

'Testosterone replacement therapy changes these people's lives,' he says.

Rodney Hylton-Potts says he has all the evidence he needs for continuing to use testosterone for the foreseeable future. He noticed a difference within days.

Five years on, he has a jab every two months at a cost of £200 (his testosterone levels are checked every two to three months).

As the years have gone by he has noticed the effects of the jabs tailing off as he approaches his next appointment, so 'tops up' with a testosterone skin gel. Rodney also takes the PDE-5 inhibitor Cialis.

He says his GP 'pooh-poohed' the idea of testosterone replacement when he said he was having it. 'He said it's a placebo effect and I shouldn't expect it to work. But it did work - he's wrong.'

'When my parents were my age, it was a question of walking in the Lake District, failing eyesight and no sex life. That's all gone now.

'If you can afford it, I would say it's a high priority to become a more cheerful person, to be more interested in sex and respond to your partner.' 


Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3184279/It-s-not-Viagra-needs-s-testosterone-men-think-little-blue-pills-takes-pep-flagging-love-life-new-research-suggests-wrong.html


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