Testosterone is one of the main sexual hormones that can be found in men, and in lower doses, in women. It regulates the sexual virility in men, and when there are low levels, can cause sexual dysfunction. Before this happens, testosterone deficiency can affect bone loss, low energy, cloudy thinking and depression. For many men, relief can be found with prescribed testosterone replacement therapies. Here is a look at this treatment and how it works:
Who is a Candidate for Testosterone Replacement Therapy?
There are two criteria that must be met to be a medical candidate for testosterone replacement therapy. The first is a demonstrated low level of testosterone under 300ng/dl. The second is a set of symptoms of low testosterone that show that the level is affecting the man. Not all people with low testosterone have symptoms, and a low blood level alone is not sufficient reason to get treatment. Beyond this, there are several conditions that would exclude you from treatment, even if you met both the criteria. This includes breast or prostate cancer, prostate nodules, sleep apnea, thick viscous blood consistency, lower urinary tract issues and a history of heart attacks.
What Kinds of Testosterone Therapy are Available?
There are three main kinds of therapy available under current FDA regulation. One is administered orally, and the second is found in a transdermal patch or gel. The third, oldest kind, is a testosterone injection into the bloodstream. There are pros and cons with each. With an injection, it requires a visit to the doctor every two weeks, and hormonal effects will begin to return just before the next injection is due. Oral pills are not swallowed, but made to dissolve into the gum tissue. For some, they may cause a bitter taste and some irritation at the application site. Transdermal gels and patches have similar issues with irritation for some, but not for all. Transdermal applications don't have the roller coaster effects that injections do, but the doctor will want to make sure levels have gotten to target numbers within about two weeks of application. With both forms, symptoms from low testosterone should subside within 1-2 months of starting treatment if the protocol is followed correctly and the proper dosage has been prescribed and verified.
What are the Drawbacks of Testosterone Therapy?
Many people who come in for testosterone replacement therapy are older, and because of this they may have additional risks when they take testosterone supplements. This can include a thickening of the blood, which can increase risk of clotting, strokes, and heart attacks. There are some conflicting reports on whether an increase in testosterone might increase the chances of prostate cancer, because lowering testosterone can help treat the cancer. However, this is not agreed upon in the medical community.