Many studies demonstrate an improvement in mood of hypogonadal men treated with testosterone (Wang et al 1996; Azad et al 2003). The relationship between testosterone status and mood, particularly depression, remains unresolved. Using Beck’s Depression Inventory, Barrett-Connor and colleagues found that the depression score worsened as men aged, exactly at a time when testosterone levels are decreasing (Barrett-Connor et al 1999). Pope and colleagues found that testosterone treatment in men with refractory depression lowered the Hamilton Depression rating scale and the Clinical Global Impression severity rating (Pope et al 2003). The Beck Depression Inventory remained unchanged in Pope’s study.
A number of epidemiological studies have found that bone mineral density in the aging male population is positively associated with endogenous androgen levels (Murphy et al 1993; Ongphiphadhanakul et al 1995; Rucker et al 2004). Testosterone levels in young men have been shown to correlate with bone size, indicating a role in determination of peak bone mass and protection from future osteoporosis (Lorentzon et al 2005). Male hypogonadism has been shown to be a risk factor for hip fracture (Jackson et al 1992) and a recent study showed a high prevalence of hypogonadism in a group of male patients with average age 75 years presenting with minimal trauma fractures compared to stroke victims who acted as controls (Leifke et al 2005). Estrogen is a well known determinant of bone density in women and some investigators have found serum estrogen to be a strong determinant of male bone density (Khosla et al 1998; Khosla et al 2001). Serum estrogen was also found to correlate better than testosterone with peak bone mass (Khosla et al 2001) but this is in contradiction of a more recent study showing a negative correlation of estrogen with peak bone size (Lorentzon et al 2005). Men with aromatase deficiency (Carani et al 1997) or defunctioning estrogen receptor mutations (Smith et al 1994) have been found to have abnormally low bone density despite normal or high testosterone levels which further emphasizes the important influence of estrogen on male bone density.
There's the rub, so to speak. Recalling the cautionary lessons learned about sex steroid hormone therapy in postmenopausal women from theWomen's Health Initiative, Dr. Brad Anawalt wrote in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, "We are threatened with a reprise of promiscuous prescription of sex steroid hormone therapy in aging men, obese men, diabetic men, and other groups of men with a high prevalence of low serum androgen levels. We are threatened with a mad 'T' party."
^ Southren AL, Gordon GG, Tochimoto S, Pinzon G, Lane DR, Stypulkowski W (May 1967). "Mean plasma concentration, metabolic clearance and basal plasma production rates of testosterone in normal young men and women using a constant infusion procedure: effect of time of day and plasma concentration on the metabolic clearance rate of testosterone". The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 27 (5): 686–94. doi:10.1210/jcem-27-5-686. PMID 6025472.
Testosterone is included in the World Health Organization's list of essential medicines, which are the most important medications needed in a basic health system. It is available as a generic medication. The price depends on the form of testosterone used. It can be administered as a cream or transdermal patch that is applied to the skin, by injection into a muscle, as a tablet that is placed in the cheek, or by ingestion.
Studies of the effects on cognition of testosterone treatment in non-cognitively impaired eugonadal and hypogonadal ageing males have shown varying results, with some showing beneficial effects on spatial cognition (Janowsky et al 1994; Cherrier et al 2001), verbal memory (Cherrier et al 2001) and working memory (Janowsky et al 2000), and others showing no effects (Sih et al 1997; Kenny et al 2002). Other trials have examined the effects of testosterone treatment in older men with Alzheimer’s disease or cognitive decline. Results have been promising, with two studies showing beneficial effects of testosterone treatment on spatial and verbal memory (Cherrier et al 2005b) and cognitive assessments including visual-spatial memory (Tan and Pu 2003), and a recent randomized controlled trial comparing placebo versus testosterone versus testosterone and an aromatase inhibitor suggesting that testosterone treatment improves spatial memory directly and verbal memory after conversion to estrogen (Cherrier et al 2005a). Not all studies have shown positive results (Kenny et al 2004; Lu et al 2005), and variations could be due to the different measures of cognitive abilities that were used and the cognitive state of men at baseline. The data from clinical trials offers evidence that testosterone may be beneficial for certain elements of cognitive function in the aging male with or without cognitive decline. Larger studies are needed to confirm and clarify these effects.
It seems that adequate testosterone levels are an important influence on sexual symptoms in the aging male and also influence the response of men to PDE-5 inhibitors, the first line treatment for erectile dysfunction in men. Many would now suggest screening for testosterone deficiency in all men presenting with erectile dysfunction (Gore and Rajfer 2004; Shabsigh 2005). This would seem appropriate because, in addition to benefits on sexual function, identification and treatment of hypogonadal men with testosterone could improve other symptoms of hypogonadism and protect against other conditions such as osteoporosis.