Much like estrogen is the predominant female hormone, testosterone is the dominant male hormone. In fact, many might even say that testosterone is the secret ingredient that makes men, men. The hormone is responsible for giving men deep voices, larger muscles, and hairy chests. Testosterone also stimulates the development of the genitals at puberty, functions in sperm production, regulates libido, and contributes to normal erectile function. Not only that, but it also fosters the production of the all-important red blood cells, improves mood, and supports cognition.
However, over time and with age, the mechanics that produce testosterone gradually become less effective. In most cases, men experience roughly a 1 percent decrease in testosterone levels starting in their early 40s, and as they age into their 50s and 60s show signs and symptoms of low testosterone, including lower sex drive, erectile dysfunction, decreased energy, etc. The condition is clinically termed hypogonadism. And while researchers estimate the condition to affect between two and six million men, it is largely underdiagnosed. Of those diagnosed, only about 5 percent are actually receiving an effective treatment, such as testosterone therapy for men. Understanding the specifics surrounding the condition as well as knowing more about this treatment option can go a long way toward getting the right treatment and living a healthier and more fulfilling life.
Identifying Low Testosterone
An important first step toward treatment is obviously diagnosis of the condition itself. Many men don’t know the signs or symptoms of low testosterone or are simply embarrassed to admit they may be experiencing a problem.
One of the hallmark symptoms of the condition is low libido or sexual desire. Likewise, erectile dysfunction is another cornerstone issue. Any male who experiences a change in libido or erectile function should have his testosterone level checked. Other symptoms may include difficulty reaching climax, less-intense orgasms, a decreased amount of fluid during ejaculation, as well as a feeling of numbness in the penis when seeing or experiencing something that would typically be arousing.
The more of these symptoms a many exhibits, the more likely it is that he has low testosterone levels. Particularly in aging men, physicians will often dismiss these as normal parts of aging, but they are often very treatable and even reversible with testosterone replacement therapy.
Testosterone Therapy Treatment for men
Testosterone therapy for men is delivered in several different forms – each with its different pros and cons. Some of the most common forms include:
- Patches – Testosterone patches are easy to apply and stick directly to the skin to release the hormone into the bloodstream gradually. For some individuals, the patch may cause a rash, and some patches have to be applied more than once a day.
- Gels – Gels are also daily treatments that are massaged into the skin. Many individuals find gels convenient to use; however, it is important to make sure that no one comes into contact with the application area for several hours after treatment.
- Buccal patch – The buccal patch is similar to other patches but is applied to the upper gum twice a day. This option is convenient but may cause gum irritation or disease.
- Injections – Injections are typically administered between 2 and 10 weeks apart. This treatment option is often more expensive than others and may not provide as steady benefits as others as the testosterone levels may dip back down between doses.
- Subcutaneous pellets – This option involves the doctor inserting a small pellet under the skin every 3 to 6 months. This is often convenient, but it does require minor surgery for each treatment.
According to research, there are a number of testosterone therapy indications for men. Among the most common benefits of testosterone therapy for men include:
- Improved mood – Treatment restores hormonal balance, which plays a significant role in mood.
- Increased sex drive – While libido is a complex issue, restoring the testosterone levels in the body can dramatically improve sex drive.
- Increased stamina – Both in the gym and out of it, stamina is important for living a healthy, balanced life. Testosterone replacement therapy can significantly improve stamina.
- Increase assertiveness – Individuals struggling with low testosterone may also deal with hesitancy, doubt, and indecision. Treatment can help increase or restore assertiveness.
As with most medical treatments, testosterone therapy for men is not without its risks. While this treatment is considered safe in general, the common testosterone therapy contraindications for men include:
- Acne or increased oil in the skin
- Fluid retention
- Stimulation of the prostate, with associated issues, such as increased urination symptoms and or decreased flow or frequency
- Increased risk of prostate cancer
- Breast enlargement
- Increased risk of blood clots
- Worsening sleep apnea
- Decreased testicular size
- Increased aggression
- Mood swings
- Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
Additionally, some individuals may exhibit laboratory abnormalities in addition to testosterone therapy for men side effects. These include changes in cholesterol or lipid levels, an increase in red blood cells, a decrease in sperm count, and an increase in PSA levels.
Testosterone Therapy for Men Results
While testosterone therapy for men results are evident, some of the findings in clinical trials were mixed. For example, men both with unexplained anemia as well as identified anemia had significant increases in hemoglobin. Likewise, participants exhibited a significant increase in bone mineral density. However, these same individuals also demonstrated increased calcification of plaque in the arteries. There was also no significant change in cognition.
In any case, if you or someone you know is struggling with low testosterone levels, exploring testosterone replacement therapy for men is an option worth exploring. For many individuals, it provides a welcome relief to issues that can be anything for slightly frustrating to debilitating.