What Is Testosterone?
Testosterone is a hormone produced in the testicles. It helps retain bone density, muscle strength and weight, produce red blood cells, distribute fats, promote the growth of facial body hair, produce sperm and increase the sex drive in men.
The promise of testosterone therapy may seem appealing, but there are a lot of misconceptions about what the treatment can do and can’t do. Nowadays, it has become the ultimate anti-aging solution in men.
There are many benefits of testosterone treatment to tackle the decline of testosterone levels due to age. This article will sum up what has been studied and found related to testosterone therapy for aging.
What Happens to Testosterone Levels with Age?
Testosterone level is the highest in teenage years and adulthood. Its levels tend to decrease naturally when men get older – around one percent a year after the age of 30 to 40. But if the levels are too low, it is important to determine whether it is due to age or due to a disease known as hypogonadism.
Hypogonadism is a disease in which the body is unable to produce enough amount of testosterone due to an issue in the testicles or pituitary gland, which controls the testicles. Testosterone therapy may improve the testosterone levels in these men and make them healthy like before.
What Causes Low Testosterone?
Apart from aging, the other causes of low testosterone levels are:
- Loss of testicles in an injury or infection
- Chemotherapy or radiation for curing cancer
- Genetic abnormalities
- Hemochromatosis – an illness due to which there is excess iron in the body
- Medications, especially those to treat prostate cancer
- Chronic kidney failure
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Obesity, especially in the abdominal area
What Are the Symptoms of Low Testosterone Levels?
Some of the most common symptoms among men due to low testosterone levels include:
- Changes in sexual act: This includes lower sex drive, fewer spontaneous erection like during sleep, and infertility.
- Changes in sleep patterns: At times, low testosterone levels may lead to insomnia or disturbance during sleep.
- Changes in the physical health and body: Many physical changes can be observed such as an increase in body fat, reduction in muscle strength, a decrease in bone density, greater hair loss and lesser stamina.
- Changes in emotional health: Various emotional changes have been reported including low self-esteem and motivation, feeling sad or depressed, and difficulty concentrating and remembering stuff.
It isn’t necessary that all of these signs and symptoms will be due to low testosterone levels. Some of them can be caused by medication side effects, sleep apnea, diabetes, thyroid problems, and depression. Thus, a proper checkup is necessary and once treated, testosterone levels may rise.
How to Check for Low Testosterone Levels?
The only possible technique to check the amount of testosterone in the blood is a blood test. As the hormone levels fluctuate throughout the day, several readings will be taken to determine whether the testosterone levels are low or not. Doctors prefer to carry out the test early in the morning as testosterone levels are the highest at that time of the day.
What Are the Different Forms of Testosterone Supplements?
Testosterone therapy is available in four types, all leading to an increased level of testosterone:
- Skin patch (transdermal): Androderm, a skin patch that is worn on the arm or upper body, is applied once a day to deliver testosterone.
- Gels: Gels contain testosterone that is absorbed by the skin when you use it. AndroGel and Testim are clear testosterone gels. AndroGel, Axiron, and Fortesta also come in a pump to allow the user to control the discharge of testosterone from it and apply the amount prescribed by the doctor. Natesto is a gel that is applied into the nose.
- Mouth patch: Striant, a tablet that sticks to the upper gum above the tooth that is to the right or left of the two front teeth, is applied twice a day. It regulates testosterone into the blood via the oral tissues.
- Injections or implantation: Testosterones can either be injected into the muscles or implanted as tablets into the flexible tissues. The body slowly absorbs these testosterones into the bloodstream.
The question arises, why not take the simple testosterone tablet? Although oral testosterone tablet is available, due to its harmful effects on the liver, it is not prescribed. The methods mentioned above bypass the liver and lead the testosterone into the bloodstream.
Can Testosterone Therapy Make You Feel Young?
There has been numerous testing and trials that show evidence of testosterone treatment that benefits older men who are otherwise healthy, though the therapy can help counter hypogonadism.
Most men feel young and more energetic after the therapy.
What Are the Side Effects of Testosterone Therapy?
In general, testosterone therapy is safe, but minor side effects of it may pose a risk for normal growth. These include:
- Acne or other skin reactions
- Obstructive sleep apnea – a disorder in which a person’s breathing stops and starts repeatedly
- Enlargement of breasts
- Cause testicles to shrink and limit sperm production
- Encourage growth of noncancerous prostate or existing prostate cancer
- Increase in the risk of blood clot forming in the deep vein which can, in turn, block the blood flow
- Rise in mood swings and anger
- May increase the risk of stroke or heart attack
Who Should Avoid Testosterone Therapy?
Men who have prostate cancer or breast cancer should not undergo testosterone treatment. Also, men who have severe urinary problems, severe sleep apnea, or uncontrolled heart failure should avoid it. All men who plan to go for a testosterone treatment should get a thorough prostate screening and a rectal and PSA test before the therapy.
Before planning for a testosterone therapy, it is best to consult a doctor and talk about its risks and benefits.
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