Article at a Glance
- Testosterone replacement therapy is no longer just for menopausal women.
- Low testosterone can have devastating effects on men as they age.
- Testosterone therapy is available in numerous forms.
If you are familiar with the term testosterone replacement therapy, it is probably regarding women who are experiencing menopause. However, it has quickly become a popular new modality in men’s health, and studies are beginning to show numerous health benefits. This testosterone replacement therapy guide will teach you everything you need to know relating to this solution for men. Some benefits are:
- Increased sex drive
- Improved erections and reproductive functions
- Ease in building muscle bulk
- Maintenance of healthy levels of red blood cells
- Maintenance of bone density
- Increased body and facial hair
- Improved energy level
Testosterone replacement therapy clinics are popping up all over the country, and the demand for the services is increasing. Let’s talk about the ins and outs of testosterone replacement therapy for men and whether it is right for you.
Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance
A hormonal imbalance can occur at any point in your life. Male hormone imbalance can be brought on by stress, an acute injury or illness, poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, and age, among many other things.
The glands that make up the endocrine system are involved in an intricate balance with each other. All it takes is one gland to perform poorly to set things awry throughout your whole body, causing symptoms that can be difficult to diagnose.
The symptoms of hormone imbalance are vague and often misdiagnosed or ignored. The only way to know whether you have proper hormone levels is by getting them checked.
The most common symptoms of hormonal imbalance in men are often disregarded until they impact the quality of life so severely that treatment is required. Some of the symptoms of hormone imbalance in men include:
- Weight gain
- Brain fog
- Decreased sexual desire and performance
- Inability to maintain muscle mass
Low testosterone is one of the hormone imbalances that can lead to issues. You need testosterone for:
- Male sexual desire
- Reproductive function
- Building muscle bulk
- Maintaining healthy levels of red blood cells
- Maintaining bone density
What Does It Mean to Have Low Testosterone?
Natural testosterone production decreases with age. The American Urological Association estimates that about 20% of males older than 60 and 30% of those older than 70 have low testosterone [R]. A male’s highest testosterone level usually peaks at about age 20 and then decreases slowly with age. Studies suggest that a 1.5% decrease in testosterone level per year is typical for men over 30 [R]. While some men may not notice this decrease, others may experience significant changes starting in their middle-aged years or once they hit 60.
Generally, low testosterone is diagnosed when levels fall below 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL). The standard range is between 300 and 1,000 ng/dL. Some research indicates that the ideal range is between 400 to 600 ng/dL [R]. A blood test known as a serum testosterone test is used to determine your level of circulating testosterone.
You can start monitoring your testosterone now and then have it checked periodically as per the recommendation of your healthcare provider and based on how you are feeling. If your levels fall too low or you begin to have some of the symptoms of low testosterone, you may want to ask your doctor about starting testosterone replacement therapy. Once you start therapy, your doctor should monitor your hormone levels carefully to make sure the levels stay within range.
What Are the Benefits of Testosterone Therapy?
Testosterone therapy can be of great help to the one in four males over 30 with low testosterone [R]. Some positive effects of testosterone therapy can include:
A Healthy Heart
A healthy heart is vital for training performance, as it provides oxygen to muscles and organs. A study of 83,000 men whose testosterone levels returned to normal after therapy were 24% less likely to have a heart attack and 36% less likely to have a stroke than those with low testosterone levels [R].
Testosterone has been shown to increase muscle mass. Testosterone encourages protein synthesis, which allows torn muscle fibers to recover more quickly. To put on more muscle mass, you will need to combine testosterone therapy with strength training [R].
Testosterone plays a huge role in bone density. Bone density decreases as men age and testosterone levels drop, which raises the risk of weak bones and osteoporosis.
Research shows that bone density increases with testosterone treatment when the hormone’s levels are restored to normal ranges [R].
Better Verbal Memory, Spatial Abilities, and Mathematical Reasoning
Maybe your days of SAT prep are long gone, but research indicates that men with higher total testosterone have a reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s. There is also evidence that cognitive abilities and processing speed are correlated with testosterone levels. Treatment for men ages 34 to 70 has also shown an improvement in spatial memory [R].
Research has found that men with hypogonadism who receive testosterone therapy see an increase in libido [R]. Studies have shown that libido levels are highest when testosterone levels are in a normal range [R].
The effects of testosterone replacement therapy on mood can vary. Men with hypogonadism reported improved mood and well-being, as well as reduced fatigue and irritability. Research suggests that this treatment may also be an effective treatment for depression [R].
Different Forms of Testosterone Replacement Therapy
There are a few methods of testosterone replacement that can be used depending on the patient’s needs and preference:
- Injections — Testosterone can be delivered via intramuscular injection.
- Implants — A subdermal implant has about 5-10 gms of hormones and they are placed under the skin in a nonsurgical procedure. There is a slight risk of the implant migrating. This treatment should last three to six months.
- Skin patch — There are either skin patches or scrotal patches available, with doses varying between 2.5 mg per day and 6 mg per day. If a scrotal patch is used, the patient has to shave daily, and the absorption is variable.
- Gels (Androgel, Testim) — These are the most popular choices for patients, with 70% finding success when choosing gels [R]. They are the most convenient but can transfer to others and cause unwanted symptoms (especially in women and children).
- Mouth patch — These are tablets stuck to the upper gums. The patient can experience mouth or gum irritation and even a change in their taste when using these.
- BHRT pellets — A doctor subcutaneously inserts the pellets in the hip area in a quick in-office visit.
Does It Really Work?
Testosterone replacement therapy can have some pretty significant benefits, such as:
Testosterone can improve bone mineral density and reduce fractures [R]. It can diminish osteoclastogenesis, a condition that breaks down bone tissue [R]. When bones become more brittle, men put themselves at risk for fractures and severe injury.
For instance, forty percent of older male patients with hip fractures die within a year of the injury. Reducing bone mineral density could have long-standing health implications.
Healthier Cardiovascular System
Recent testing has shown that men with chronically low testosterone levels have a greater risk of sudden death from heart disease. Studies found that, during the testing period, twice as many men with low testosterone died than those with normal testosterone levels [R]. Testosterone therapy that returns you to normal levels could improve your cardiovascular system.
Better Sexual Health
Sexual function improves with testosterone. Most research agrees that sexual drive is enhanced by testosterone, but penile erections may only improve in men who previously had low testosterone levels [R]. Middle-aged men who notice their sex drive is low may want to visit a doctor to see if their testosterone is lower than average.
Potential Risks Associated With Testosterone Therapy
There are some risks associated with taking hormones, such as:
- Decreased testicle size and sperm count — This is the most common side effect of testosterone replacement therapy [R]. Typically, the pituitary gland senses that there isn’t enough testosterone in the bloodstream and it sends signals to the testicles to produce more testosterone and also to produce sperm. If you take supplemental hormones, your pituitary gland gets the message that there’s already enough testosterone in your system, so it stops sending the signals. Your testicles essentially stop sperm production, which can hamper fertility, and production doesn’t always return to normal after treatment cessation [R].
- Acne — Your skin type can change by increasing oil production. If there is too much oil, you will have breakouts. Testosterone increases the production of sebum, which can increase the likelihood of acne [R].
- Cardiovascular Problems — In 2010, scientists halted the “Testosterone in Older Men” study after realizing the treatments were causing heart problems in men. Long-term testosterone use appears to increase the risk of cardiovascular issues.
- Development of Cancerous Cells — Although there is no definitive evidence, some researchers believe that long-term testosterone therapy could cause the growth of prostate cancer cells.
If you’re interested in learning more about testosterone replacement therapy for men, be sure to check out our directory of knowledgeable doctors.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. Information is provided for educational purposes. You should consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website.