If you are experiencing a low urge to engage in sexual activity, it might be due to a low testosterone level. At present, many men with low testosterone report an improvement in the energy levels, mood and sex drive after testosterone replacement therapy.
Is it the solution to low libido? Understandably, having low testosterone does not necessarily require treatment though. Testosterone replacement therapy has several side effects and the long-term risks and benefits are not yet fully established.
Only men with indications of low testosterone and blood levels that confirm this as the main cause should consider treatment. Consulting a doctor is the only way to know if this form of therapy is suitable for you.
What are the symptoms of low testosterone?
The signs of low testosterone are often evident, but they can also be subtle. The levels naturally decline among men as part of the aging process over the years. Nevertheless, certain conditions can also result in an unusually low level.
The signs of low testosterone include the following:
- Low libido or sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
- Poor energy level or fatigue
- Poor muscular mass
- Facial or body hair loss
- Concentration difficulties
- Low self-esteem
If a man has signs of low testosterone and testing show abnormally low testosterone level, the doctor will suggest treatment.
Among millions of men who have low testosterone without any symptoms, treatment is not necessary. Among men with low levels due to aging, the doctor will not approve the replacement therapy.
What are the forms of testosterone supplements?
The testosterone replacement therapy is available in various forms. All of these can improve the level in the body:
- Skin patch (transdermal) – when using a skin patch, apply it on the upper body or arm once a day.
- Gels – most are available in clear packets. The skin directly absorbs testosterone after applying once a day. Other variants include a pump that administers the amount that the doctor prescribes. In addition, there is also a variant that is applied inside the nose.
- Mouth patch – this is a tablet that adheres near the upper gums of the incisor. If you will apply it twice a day, it releases testosterone continuously into the blood via the oral tissues.
- Injections and implants – the doctor can also inject the hormone directly to the muscles or as implants in the soft tissue in the form of pellets. The body steadily absorbs the hormone into the bloodstream.
Is oral testosterone available? This variant is available, but experts believe that it has a negative effect on the liver. Other methods such as gels, skin patches, oral patches or injections bypass the liver and deliver testosterone directly into the blood.
What are the benefits?
It is difficult to predict the outcome from testosterone treatment since each person is distinct. Many claim an improvement with libido, energy level and quality of erections. The hormone also improves muscle mass, bone density and insulin sensitivity in some.
Some men often report an improvement with the mood after treatment. Whether these effects are trivial or a significant boost, it is a case-to-case basis.
What are the risks?
Testosterone replacement therapy has its share of side effects such as itchiness, rash or irritation at the site of application. However, there is also proof of a high risk to develop a heart attack or stroke from the treatment.
According to experts, there are a few health conditions that testosterone therapy can worsen such as:
- Benign prostatic hypertrophy – the prostate naturally develops under the stimulation of testosterone. In most men, the prostate grows bigger as part of aging which squeezes the urethra, leading to difficulty with urination.
- Prostate cancer – testosterone can stimulate the development of prostate cancer. Most experts suggest screening for cancer before starting the replacement therapy. Those with prostate cancer or high levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) must avoid the therapy.
- Blood clots – the replacement products include a warning about the potential risk for blood clot formation in the veins. This can increase the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.
- Congestive heart failure – men suffering from severe congestive heart failure should avoid the replacement therapy
- Sleep apnea – testosterone therapy is not an option since it can worsen this condition. It is usually the sleeping partner who can detect this. The doctor might require a sleep study to decide on a diagnosis.
Replacement therapy and steroids: Are they the same?
The anabolic steroids that some athletes and bodybuilders use generally contain testosterone or chemicals that mimic the hormone.
The difference between replacement therapy and steroids is the dosage. When it comes to testosterone replacement therapy, the dosage necessary aims on reaching the natural levels of the hormone in the blood.
The forms of testosterone that some athletes use illegally are in high doses and often as a combination with other substances that delivers a boost to the overall muscle-building effect.
A close look on testosterone and why it declines
Testosterone is a hormone responsible for regulating the sex drive. It is the driving force among men that allow them to reach peak satisfaction during sexual activity.
During puberty, testosterone helps build up muscles, deepen the voice and boosts the size of the testes and penis among males. Upon reaching adulthood, the hormone keeps the bones and muscles strong as well as maintaining interest in sex. In simple words, it is the hormone responsible for making one a “man” physically.
After reaching 30, most men start to experience a steady decline in the level of testosterone. The drop in the sex drive often occurs with the decline in the hormone, leading most men to believe that the loss of interest in sex is due to aging.
In one study, although it is part of the aging process, it is a misconception. A steady decline in the level of testosterone could not be the reason for the total loss of interest in sex. Men in their 20s, 30s and early 40s with erectile issues might have other health issues as the culprit.
Remember that most of the symptoms mimic other health conditions such as high blood pressure, depression, diabetes, and coronary artery disease. With the rise in awareness on low testosterone, doctors will rule out other possible explanations before blaming on the low hormonal level. In most cases, the doctor orders a specific blood test to determine the level of the testosterone in the body.