Testosterone is the main hormone produced by the testes (balls, knackers), and is controlled by the hormones secreted by the pituitary gland, which is the 'master control' of the hormonal system.
Testosterone plays a role in quite a few bodily functions. During puberty, our systems are literally bathed in the stuff as we undergo all the changes it is responsible for...
Women basically stop producing estrogen when they reach menopause. Men do not stop producing testosterone.
Testosterone production does decline somewhat with age, and does affect sex drive a certain amount. But most doctors agree a lack of it is NOT the main cause of sexual dysfunction in older men.
Jed Diamond in his new book The Whole Man Program: Reinvigorating Your Body, Mind, and Spirit After 40 (which for my money is the best book available on getting through the midlife transition) explains that often a man will come into his clinic looking for a testosterone prescription for a 'quick fix' to help juice up his sex life.
After he has a thorough physical exam, plus a conversation with Jed regarding his diet, exercise regime, work life, hobbies and satisfaction with his marriage, Jed may suggest a number of changes to the man's lifestyle before prescribing testosterone. In two or three months, if the patient makes the suggested changes, he often realizes he doesn't need testosterone.
According to one study only about 5% of men over 60 have a deficiency that might need supplemental therapy. Another study found it was as high as 15%, but again, by no stretch of the imagination is testosterone deficiency requiring therapy prevalent in older men.
Doctors also agree that the gradual drop in testosterone after age forty or so is NOT the cause of male menopause, which IS caused by a whole combination of factors.
Is Testosterone Therapy a Good Idea?
My oldest son, who is now in his forties, started on hormone therapy through a special clinic a couple of years ago. His treatments included a hormone for his thyroid, as well as DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone, a precursor to both male and female hormones) as well as testosterone. After a couple of months of treatment, he reported feeling more energy, the ability to think more clearly, and more muscle mass.
My wife started hormone therapy to help with mood swings and other symptoms, and after several months of the hormone treatments was feeling better, and got her sex drive back.
I started hormone therapy at age 68, and have found it has given me stronger erections.
NOTE: We went to a special clinic where the doctors have extra training in hormone therapy. We had blood tests to measure our hormone levels, which took several weeks for results. The hormones these doctors prescribe are not just 'bio-identical' but 'human identical'. Essentially all replacement hormones are 'bio-identical', but those that are not 'human-identical- can cause the problems noted below.
If you are thinking of taking hormones, do it through a medical clinic that specializes in hormone therapy.
As more research is done, more is learned about all the hormones in our system, and doctors can make more educated recommendations about hormone therapy. Most doctors say we produce enough testosterone throughout our lives. Some say adding a bit after we reach our fifties can give us more energy, more sex drive, and even maintain body mass. However, the SIDE EFFECTS can be very serious:
With testosterone being available on the internet, some men are tempted to self-administer it. THIS IS A STUPID IDEA. Testosterone is a powerful hormone. If you suspect you may not be producing enough of your own SEE YOUR DOCTOR.
If your doctor is not well versed in the use of hormones, and especially if he seems not to be familiar with midlife changes in a man's life, ask to be referred to one who is.
If you want details on the therapeutic use of this hormone, here are a couple of books I recommend: