The promise of testosterone therapy may seem attractive, but there are many misconceptions about what treatment can and can not do for you. As you get older, testosterone therapy may seem like the best anti-aging formula. But the health benefits of testosterone therapy-used to treat hormone depletion due to age-are not as obvious as they seem. Find out what is known and what is not-about testosterone therapy for normal aging.
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What is testosterone?
The influence of testosterone in men. Testosterone is a hormone that is produced mainly in the testes. Testosterone helps maintain different functions in man, such as:
- Bone density
- Distribution of fat
- Strength and muscle mass
- Body and facial hair
- Production of red blood cells
- Sexual desire
- Sperm production
What happens with testosterone levels with age?
Testosterone levels usually reach their peak during adolescence and the first years of adulthood. As you get older, testosterone levels decrease progressively; It is usually about 1 percent a year after 30 or 40 years. In older men, it is important to determine if a low level of testosterone is simply due to a normal decrease due to age or if it is due to a disease (hypogonadism).
Hypogonadism is a disease in which the body is unable to produce normal amounts of testosterone due to a problem in the testicles or in the pituitary gland that controls the testes. Testosterone replacement therapy can improve the signs and symptoms of a low testosterone level in these men. Doctors can prescribe testosterone in the form of injections, granules, patches or gels.
Does a naturally decreasing testosterone level cause the signs and symptoms of aging?
Not necessarily. Men may experience several signs and symptoms as they get older. Some may occur as a result of lower testosterone levels and may include the following:
- Changes in sexual function. This could include decreased sexual desire, fewer spontaneous erections (such as those that occur while you sleep) and infertility.
- Changes in sleep patterns. Sometimes, low testosterone causes insomnia and other sleep disturbances.
- Physical changes. You may notice several physical changes, such as increased body fat, decreased strength and muscle mass, and reduced bone density. You may also notice inflammation or tenderness in the breasts (gynecomastia) and loss of body hair. It is possible that you have less energy than you used to have.
- Emotional changes. Low testosterone levels may help decrease motivation and self-confidence. You may feel sad or depressed, or have difficulty concentrating or remembering things.
Some of these signs and symptoms may be caused by several pre-existing factors, such as side effects of medications, obstructive sleep apnea, thyroid problems, diabetes, and depression. It is also possible that these conditions are the cause of low testosterone levels, and treatment for these problems can cause an increase in testosterone levels. The only way to diagnose a low testosterone level is through a blood test.
Can testosterone therapy promote vitality and youth?
Testosterone therapy can help reverse the effects of hypogonadism, but it is not clear if it could have any benefit for older men who do not have other diseases.
While some men believe that taking medications with testosterone may help them feel younger and more vigorous as they get older, few rigorous studies have looked at testosterone therapy in healthy men with normal testosterone levels. In addition, some small studies revealed contradictory results. For example, in one study, healthy men who took testosterone medications had greater muscle mass but did not improve strength.
What are the risks of testosterone therapy for normal aging?
Testosterone therapy carries several risks. For example, testosterone therapy could cause the following:
- Contribute to sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing stops and resumes repeatedly
- Cause acne or other skin reactions
- Stimulate non-cancerous growth of the prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia) and that of existing prostate cancer
- Enlarge the breasts
- Limit sperm production or cause shrinking of the testicles
- Increase the risk of clot formation in deep veins (deep vein thrombosis), which can break off, travel through the bloodstream, lodge in the lungs and block blood flow (pulmonary embolism)
In addition, testosterone therapy can affect the risk of heart disease. The investigations had contradictory results, therefore, the exact risk is not yet clear.
Should you check with your doctor about testosterone therapy?
If you do not know if testosterone therapy might be right for you, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits. The doctor is likely to measure your testosterone levels at least twice before analyzing whether testosterone therapy is an appropriate option for you.
A disease that causes an unusual decrease in testosterone may be a reason for the administration of a testosterone supplement. However, currently, it is not recommended to treat normal aging with therapy with testosterone. Your doctor may also suggest natural methods to increase testosterone, such as losing weight and increasing muscle mass through resistance exercises.