When dealing with symptoms of low testosterone, it’s crucial to balance the risks and benefits of treatment options.
We’re all looking for it: that magical cure or fountain of youth to help erase the health issues that crop up for many of us as we age. For men who have reached 40 the age at which testosterone levels have been shown to start dropping by up to 3 percent per year testosterone replacement has been receiving increasing attention as a potential cure-all the physical signs that indicate low testosterone. As with most health-related questions, the answers aren’t that simple.
Understanding the signs
The most common symptoms of low testosterone that men experience are:
Fatigue and lack of energy
- Lowered sex drive (libido)
- Erectile dysfunction
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of depression
- Moodiness and irritability
- Loss of bone mass
While these symptoms are frequently indicative of low testosterone levels, the overall picture can be much more complex. A number of other health conditions such as heart disease, thyroid problems, diabetes, obesity, depression and simply normal aging can be the cause of these symptoms.
In addition, unhealthy lifestyle choices such as lack of exercise, poor diet, smoking and drinking alcohol, excessive stress and lack of sleep also can contribute to signs that are mistaken for low testosterones effects.
Diagnosing the problem
In order to get the complete picture for each patient, a doctor should go over their medical history and discuss family and lifestyle issues, along with conducting a physical exam.A standard blood test is then taken to measure testosterone levels. That blood test should be taken in the morning (when most men’s testosterone levels are highest) and checked twice along with other hormones if needed. The normal range for an adult male falls between 300 and 1,000 Nano grams per deciliter. If a patients numbers fall below that range and symptoms are present, it may be time to start testosterone replacement therapy.
With proper application, each of the treatment options (below)can elevate your testosterone to adequate levels and bring about positive effects such as increased libido, energy and concentration; decreased truncal fat and better bone health. Certain risks are also associated with testosterone replacement, including increase in red blood cells, decrease in sperm count, changes in cholesterol and lipid levels, and stimulation of prostate tissue. For those reasons, testosterone therapy should also be accompanied by regular monitoring of liver function, blood count and PSA tests.
The advantages of testosterone replacement can help men who have appropriate symptoms and low levels. At the same time, simple numbers aren’t enough a patients entire wellness profile should be taken into account before relying solely on testosterone supplementation. A comprehensive discussion with your doctor can help determine the right approach for you.
Testosterone replacement is available in many forms, including:
Injections and implants: Testosterone injected into the muscle or implanted with pellets in soft tissue and slowly released into the bloodstream
Testosterone gels: Clear testosterone gel absorbed directly into the skin
Transdermal skin patches: Skin patches applied to the upper body once a day
Mouth lozenges: Tablet stuck to the upper gums twice a day
Ajay Nangia, MBBS, F.A.C.S., is a Professor of Urology at the University of Kansas Medical Center. He is on the American Urological Association Health Policy Council along with the Mens Health Checklist, sexual medicine guidelines and testosterone panels. Dr. Nangia has written several peer-reviewed journal articles in the field of urology/mens health.