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Late-onset hypogonadism: Current concepts and controversies of pathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment

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      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.

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      A critical evaluation of simple methods for the estimation of free testosterone in serum.

      The free and nonspecifically bound plasma hormone levels generally reflect the clinical situation more accurately than total plasma hormone levels. Hence, it is important to have reliable indexes of these fractions. The apparent free testosterone (T) concentration obtained by equilibrium dialysis (AFTC) as well as the fraction of serum T not precipitated by 50% ammonium sulfate concentration (non-SHBG-T; SHBG, sex hormone-binding globulin), often referred to as bioavailable T, appear to represent reliable indexes of biologically readily available T, but are not well suited for clinical routine, being too time consuming. Several other parameters have been used without complete validation, however: direct immunoassay of free T with a labeled T analog (aFT), calculation of free T (FT) from total T and immunoassayed SHBG concentrations (iSHBG), and the free androgen index (FAI = the ratio 100T/iSHBG). In the view of substantial discrepancies in the literature concerning the free or bioavailable T levels, we compared AFTC, FT, aFT, FAI, and non-SHBG-T levels in a large number of sera with SHBG capacities varying from low, as in hirsute women, to extremely high as in hyperthyroidism. All these indexes of bioavailable T correlated significantly with the AFTC concentration; AFTC and FT values were almost identical under all conditions studied, except during pregnancy. Values for aFT, however, were only a fraction of either AFTC or FT, the fraction varying as a function of SHBG levels. Also, the FAI/AFTC ratio varied as a function of the SHBG levels, and hence, neither aFT nor FAI is a reliable index of bioavailable T. The FT value, obtained by calculation from T and SHBG as determined by immunoassay, appears to be a rapid, simple, and reliable index ofbioavailable T, comparable to AFTC and suitable for clinical routine, except in pregnancy. During pregnancy, estradiol occupies a substantial part of SHBG-binding sites, so that SHBG as determined by immunoassay overestimates the actual binding capacity, which in pregnancy sera results in calculated FT values that are lower than AFTC. The nonspecifically bound T, calculated from FT, correlated highly significantly with and was almost identical to the values of non-SHBG-T obtained by ammonium sulfate precipitation, testifying to the clinical value of FT calculated from iSHBG.
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        Testosterone therapy in men with androgen deficiency syndromes: an Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline.

        Our objective was to update the guidelines for the evaluation and treatment of androgen deficiency syndromes in adult men published previously in 2006. The Task Force was composed of a chair, selected by the Clinical Guidelines Subcommittee of The Endocrine Society, five additional experts, a methodologist, and a medical writer. The Task Force received no corporate funding or remuneration. We recommend making a diagnosis of androgen deficiency only in men with consistent symptoms and signs and unequivocally low serum testosterone levels. We suggest the measurement of morning total testosterone level by a reliable assay as the initial diagnostic test. We recommend confirmation of the diagnosis by repeating the measurement of morning total testosterone and, in some men in whom total testosterone is near the lower limit of normal or in whom SHBG abnormality is suspected by measurement of free or bioavailable testosterone level, using validated assays. We recommend testosterone therapy for men with symptomatic androgen deficiency to induce and maintain secondary sex characteristics and to improve their sexual function, sense of well-being, muscle mass and strength, and bone mineral density. We recommend against starting testosterone therapy in patients with breast or prostate cancer, a palpable prostate nodule or induration or prostate-specific antigen greater than 4 ng/ml or greater than 3 ng/ml in men at high risk for prostate cancer such as African-Americans or men with first-degree relatives with prostate cancer without further urological evaluation, hematocrit greater than 50%, untreated severe obstructive sleep apnea, severe lower urinary tract symptoms with International Prostate Symptom Score above 19, or uncontrolled or poorly controlled heart failure. When testosterone therapy is instituted, we suggest aiming at achieving testosterone levels during treatment in the mid-normal range with any of the approved formulations, chosen on the basis of the patient's preference, consideration of pharmacokinetics, treatment burden, and cost. Men receiving testosterone therapy should be monitored using a standardized plan.
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          Longitudinal effects of aging on serum total and free testosterone levels in healthy men. Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging.

           S Harman,  Aislinn Pearson,   (2001)
          Many studies have shown cross-sectional (and two small studies, longitudinal) declines in total and/or free testosterone (T) levels, with age, in men. The extent to which decline in T is the result of the aging process per se, as opposed to chronic illness, medication use, and other age-related factors, remains controversial. The frequency with which aging leads to T levels consistent with hypogonadism has also not been defined. These issues bear on the potential use of T replacement in aging men, because aging and hypogonadism have, in common, reduced bone and lean body mass and muscle strength and increased total and abdominal fat. We measured T and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), by RIA, in stored samples from 890 men in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging. Using a mixed-effects model, we found independent effects of age and date of sampling to reduce T levels. After compensating for date effects, which investigation suggested was artifactual, we observed significant, independent, age-invariant, longitudinal effects of age on both T and free T index (free T index = T/SHBG), with an average change of -0.124 nmol/L.yr and -0.0049 nmol T/nmol SHBG.yr. T, but not free T index, also decreased with increasing body mass index. Use of beta-blocking drugs was associated with higher T and higher free T index levels. Using total T criteria, incidence of hypogonadal T levels increased to about 20% of men over 60, 30% over 70 and 50% over 80 yr of age, and even greater percentages when free T index criteria were employed. Our observations of health factor independent, age-related longitudinal decreases in T and free T, resulting in a high frequency of hypogonadal values, suggest that further investigation of T replacement in aged men, perhaps targeted to those with the lowest serum T concentrations, are justified.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ]Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology, Imperial College London, Hammersmth Campus, London, UK
            [2 ]Department of Physiology, University of Turku, Kiinamyllynkatu, Turku, Finland
            Author notes
            Correspondence: Prof. I Huhtaniemi ( ilpo.huhtaniemi@ 123456imperial.ac.uk )
            Journal
            Asian J Androl
            Asian J. Androl
            AJA
            Asian Journal of Andrology
            Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd (India )
            1008-682X
            1745-7262
            Mar-Apr 2014
            20 January 2014
            : 16
            : 2
            : 192-202
            24407185
            3955328
            AJA-16-192
            10.4103/1008-682X.122336
            Copyright: © Asian Journal of Andrology

            This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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