Late-onset hypogonadism: Current concepts and controversies of pathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment
Huhtaniemi I. Asian J Androl. 2013 Dec 19. doi: 10.4103/1008-682X.122336. [Epub ahead of print]

Author information

Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology, Imperial College London, Hammersmth Campus, London, UK; Department of Physiology, University of Turku, Kiinamyllynkatu, Turku, Finland, Finland.

Abstract

Although suppressed serum testosterone (T) is common in ageing men, only a small proportion of them develop the genuine syndrome of low T associated with diffuse sexual (e.g., erectile dysfunction), physical (e.g. loss of vigor and frailty) and psychological (e.g., depression) symptoms. This syndrome carries many names, including male menopause or climacterium, andropause and partial androgen deficiency of the ageing male (PADAM). Late-onset hypogonadism (LOH) describes it best and is therefore generally preferred. The decrease of T in LOH is often marginal, and hypogonadism can be either due to primary testicular failure (low T, high luteinizing hormone (LH)) or secondary to a hypothalamic-pituitary failure (low T, low or inappropriately normal LH). The latter form is more common and it is usually associated with overweight/obesity or chronic diseases (e.g., type 2 diabetes mellitus, the metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and frailty). A problem with the diagnosis of LOH is that often the symptoms (in 20%-40% of unselected men) and low circulating T (in 20% of men >70 years of age) do not coincide in the same individual. The European Male Ageing Study (EMAS) has recently defined the strict diagnostic criteria for LOH to include the simultaneous presence of reproducibly low serum T (total T <11 nmol l-1 and free T <220 pmol l-1 ) and three sexual symptoms (erectile dysfunction, and reduced frequency of sexual thoughts and morning erections). By these criteria, only 2% of 40- to 80-year-old men have LOH. In particular obesity, but also impaired general health, are more common causes of low T than chronological age per se. Evidence-based information whether, and how, LOH should be treated is sparse. The most logical approach is lifestyle modification, weight reduction and good treatment of comorbid diseases. T replacement is widely used for the treatment, but evidence-based information about its real benefits and short- and long-term risks, is not yet available. In this review, we will summarize the current concepts and controversies in the pathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment of LOH.