The Pituitary and Testis

Volume 25 of the series Monographs on Endocrinology pp 71-83

Changes in the Pituitary-Testicular Axis with Age

  • H. W. G. Baker
  • , B. Hudson

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That testicular function may be deficient in old men has been recognised from antiquity. Throughout history there are examples of attempts to rejuvenate Hebrew kings, Popes and eminent physicians with various interesting treatments, including warmth from young maidens, ingestion of human milk, infusion of blood from young men and injection of testicular extracts (Dragstedt 1969). Over the last 40 years, age-related testicular degeneration has been studied scientifically in various species (Korenchevsky et al. 1953; Bishop 1970; Andrew 1971; Vassileva-Popova and Yanev 1975; Rigaudiere et al. 1976; Riegle et al. 1977; Gray 1978; Everitt 1980). In man, Kinsey et al. (1948) found sexual activity declined progressively with age and that about three of every four men in their eighties were impotent. Studies by other workers indicate that sexual performance falls faster than sexual interest. Also, maintenance of sexual activity in the elderly is related to the health of the individual, survival and health of the wife and a high sex drive in youth (Newman and Nichols 1960; Verwoerdt et al. 1969; Pfeiffer et al. 1969, 1972; Pfeiffer and Davis 1972; Martin 1975). The duration of penile erections occurring with rapid eye movement sleep also declines progressively with age (Karacan et al. 1975). Coital performance in old men and changes in the male sexual response were detailed by Masters and Johnson (1966). The loss of secondary sexual hair in the elderly was studied by Hamilton (1951) and Melick and Taft (1950).