Testosterone is considered a male hormone and produced primarily in the testicles. Testosterone levels generally peak during adolescence and early adulthood, and as you get older, your testosterone level gradually declines. In general, it declines by about 1% a year after the age of 40.
Testosterone plays a role in the following:
- Sex drive
- Sperm production
- Bone density
- Fat distribution
- Muscle strength and mass
- Facial and body hair
- Red blood cell production
It is important to determine if your low testosterone level is simply due to the decline from normal aging or if it is due to other factors, like diseases.
Hypogonadism is a disease in which the body is unable to produce normal amounts of testosterone due to a problem with the testicles or with the pituitary gland, and in such cases; testosterone replacement therapy can improve the signs and symptoms of low testosterone in these men.
Many men with low testosterone report improved energy levels, sex drive, and mood after undergoing testosterone replacement treatment.
The ongoing pharmaceutical marketing blitz promises that treating low testosterone with replacement therapy can make men feel more alert, energetic, mentally sharp, and sexually functional, however, legitimate safety concerns remain.
Testosterone replacement therapy can have side effects, and the long-term risks and benefits are not conclusive. As such, only men with symptoms of low testosterone and blood levels that confirm this as the cause of symptoms should consider testosterone replacement therapy. Talking with your doctor is the best and only way to know if testosterone therapy is right for you.
Symptoms of Low Testosterone
The symptoms of low testosterone are most times obvious, but they also can be faint. Testosterone levels decline naturally in men as they age, but certain conditions can also lead to an abnormally low level.
- Low libido or sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
- tiredness and poor energy level
- Decreased muscle mass
- Body and facial hair loss
- Difficulty in focusing
- Low sense of well-being
- Changes in sleep patterns (insomnia or other sleep disturbances).
- increased body fat,
- reduced muscle bulk and strength,
- Decreased bone density.
- Swollen or tender breasts (gynecomastia)
- A decrease in motivation or self-confidence.
- Trouble remembering things.
Forms of Testosterone Supplements/Therapy
Testosterone replacement therapy is available in several forms
Skin Patch (Transdermal):
Skin patch can be worn on the arm or upper body and is applied once a day. Androderm is a skin patch.
As testosterone gel, testosterone is absorbed directly through the skin when you apply the gel once a day. AndroGel and Testim come in packets of clear testosterone gel, and AndroGel, Axiron, and Fortesta come in a pump that delivers the amount of testosterone prescribed by your doctor. Natesto, on its own, is a gel applied inside the nose.
Striant is a tablet that sticks to the upper gums above the incisor, and when applied twice a day, continuously releases testosterone into the blood through the oral tissues.
Injections And Implants:
Testosterone can be injected directly into the muscles, or implanted as pellets inside the soft tissues. This way, your body slowly absorbs the testosterone into the bloodstream.
Risks Of Testosterone Therapy
A relatively small number of men experience immediate side effects of testosterone supplementation. Such effects include:
- Sleep Apnea, which is a serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts.
- Acne or other skin reactions
- Stimulation of noncancerous growth of the prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia) and growth of existing prostate cancer
In general, acne disturbed breathing while sleeping, breast swelling or tenderness, or swelling in the ankles are all potential risks or side effects a user may notice.
In rare occasions, there may be high red blood cell counts, which could increase the risk of clotting.
Furthermore, men on long-term testosterone appear to have a higher risk of cardiovascular problems, like heart attacks, strokes, and deaths from heart disease.
A 2010 study stated that early results showed that men on hormone treatments had noticeably more heart problems, and in older men, theoretical cardiac side effects become a little more immediate.
Some experts also have concerns that testosterone therapy could stimulate the growth of prostate cancer cells; however, the evidence is mixed.
For men with low blood testosterone levels, the benefits of hormone replacement therapy usually prevail over its potential risks, but it should be a shared decision with your doctor.
Testosterone therapy offers men who feel down a chance to feel better, but that quick fix could lead to unknown long-term hazards since experts can’t tell you for certain that this raises your personal risk of heart problems and prostate cancer, or that it doesn’t.
Finally, Testosterone therapy is not a fountain of youth, and there is no proof that it will restore you to the level of physical fitness or sexual function of your youth.
There is also no proof that it will make you live longer, prevent heart disease or prostate cancer, or improve your memory or mental sharpness, and you should not seek therapy with these hopes in mind.