Endocrinologic Control of Men's Sexual Desire and Arousal/Erection

J Sex Med. 2016 Mar;13(3):317-37. doi: 10.1016/j.jsxm.2016.01.007.


Introduction: Several hormones and neurotransmitters orchestrate men's sexual response, including the appetitive (sexual desire) and consummative (arousal and penile erection) phases.

Aim: To provide an overview and recommendations regarding endocrinologic control of sexual desire and arousal and erection and their disturbances.

Methods: Medical literature was reviewed by the subcommittee of the International Consultation of Sexual Medicine, followed by extensive internal discussion, and then public presentation and discussion with other experts. The role of pituitary (prolactin, oxytocin, growth hormone, and α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone), thyroid, and testicular hormones was scrutinized and discussed.

Main outcome measures: Recommendations were based on grading of evidence-based medical literature, followed by interactive discussion.

Results: Testosterone has a primary role in controlling and synchronizing male sexual desire and arousal, acting at multiple levels. Accordingly, meta-analysis indicates that testosterone therapy for hypogonadal individuals can improve low desire and erectile dysfunction. Hyperprolactinemia is associated with low desire that can be successfully corrected by appropriate treatments. Oxytocin and α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone are important in eliciting sexual arousal; however, use of these peptides, or their analogs, for stimulating sexual arousal is still under investigation. Evaluation and treatment of other endocrine disorders are suggested only in selected cases.

Conclusion: Endocrine abnormalities are common in patients with sexual dysfunction. Their identification and treatment is strongly encouraged in disturbances of sexual desire and arousal.

Keywords: Erectile Dysfunction; Sexual Desire; Testosterone.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arousal
  • Endocrine System Diseases / complications
  • Endocrine System Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Endocrine System Diseases / therapy
  • Erectile Dysfunction / etiology
  • Erectile Dysfunction / physiopathology*
  • Erectile Dysfunction / therapy
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy*
  • Human Growth Hormone
  • Humans
  • Libido / physiology
  • Male
  • Men's Health
  • Penile Erection
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Testosterone / deficiency
  • Testosterone / therapeutic use*


  • Human Growth Hormone
  • Testosterone