Hormonal conditions

There are a number of hormonal imbalances which can result in impotence. These usually impact upon testosterone levels, often resulting in reduced production of this hormone which has serious consequences. One of these consequences is the failure to get or sustain an erection.

Hormone disorders account for only a tiny percentage of cases of impotence.

The following examples of hormonal conditions can cause impotence:

  • Cushing’s syndrome
  • Hyperthyroidism (over active thyroid)
  • Hypothyroidism (under active thyroid)
  • Hypogonadism
  • Adrenal gland disorders
  • Pituitary gland disorders
  • High oestrogen levels

Any situation where there are low levels of testosterone or an increase in the female hormone oestrogen can result in impotence.

Cushing’s syndrome

This occurs when tissues of the body are exposed to high levels of the hormone cortisol. This results in weight gain, particularly in the upper body, skin which is fragile and bruises easily, severe tiredness and high blood sugar levels.

Women with Cushing’s syndrome experience irregular periods whereas men develop erectile dysfunction.

Treatment involves cortisol-blocking drugs, chemotherapy, radiation and in some cases, surgery.


The common name for this is an over-active thyroid. This occurs when the body’s thyroid glands produce an excess amount of the hormone thyroxine. This causes many functions of the body to speed up, for example, the metabolism which results in weight loss.

Other symptoms include heart palpitations, anxiety, muscular weakness and a loss of libido. A loss of libido can lead to erectile dysfunction.

Treatment for hyperthyroidism includes medication, radioisotope therapy and surgery although that it is only performed in rare cases.


The opposite of hyperthyroidism: this is the medical term for an under-active thyroid. In this case, the thyroid glands produce insufficient amounts of thyroxine which slows down many processes within the body.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain, constipation, pale facial appearance, osteoporosis and a dry, itchy skin. It can cause menstrual irregularities in women and a reduced libido (and impotence) in men.

This condition is treated by administering thyroxine tablets which help to boost low levels of thyroxine in the blood stream.


This is a condition which affects both men and women. In women, the ovaries fail to produce sufficient levels of oestrogen and progesterone.

In men, the testes fail to produce enough testosterone which is essential for male fertility and many other important functions. This causes a drop in libido and in men, an inability to get an erection.

Hypogonadism is caused by the ageing process, accident or injury to the testes, smoking, excess alcohol consumption or as a side effect of certain medications.

Adrenal gland disorders

The adrenal glands are responsible for the production of the hormones testosterone and adrenaline. These are usually produced as a reaction to stress “ the ‘ fight or flight’ response.

But problems can occur with these glands which causes too little or excessive hormone production. Examples of these include Addison’s disease, Cushing’s syndrome and congenital adrenal hyperplasia.

These can cause a loss of libido, impotence and infertility.

Pituitary gland disorders

The pituitary gland is responsible for the production of several hormones within the body that include prolactin, growth hormone and luteinizing hormone.

But problems can arise with the pituitary gland which impact upon other areas of the body. For example, an excess of prolactin in men can cause reduced testosterone levels, impotence and infertility.

High oestrogen levels

Oestrogen is a female hormone but men too have this hormone although only in tiny amounts. But men can produce high levels of this hormone which cause them to develop female secondary sexual characteristics. These impair their ability to get an erection and their fertility in general. Liver diseases such as cirrhosis cause erectile dysfunction in men which is a result of the effects of this condition and excess alcohol consumption (if their cirrhosis is caused by alcohol).

Plus damage to the liver also causes a build up of female sex hormones which lead to breast enlargement and a shrinkage of the testes in men.

Hormone abnormalities are uncommon but nevertheless, it is important to be aware of these as they do occur in a small percentage of cases.

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