Imbalances in your body can cause unpleasant symptoms. Testosterone deficiency affects around 10%-40% of adult men and about 20% of young men ages 15-39.
Testosterone does more than contribute to sexual function. It helps your body in many other ways, such as improving your overall health.
When your level drops, certain body functions may decrease, and you may develop symptoms, which could be mild or severe.
But not everyone shows symptoms. Your testosterone level could be low without you knowing it. You can function with low testosterone if your body can overcompensate for it.
So, what happens if your level drops too low?
There is a solution: Testosterone Replacement Therapy. If you continue to suffer from the above symptoms and more, and the problem doesn’t go away on its own, you may qualify for treatment.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy has many benefits, but it can be risky. Continue reading to find out more about this treatment option.
What Is Testosterone?
Let’s talk about testosterone. Testosterone is a hormone that the testicles produce starting in puberty. You probably know it as a sex hormone; however, testosterone has additional purposes than just improving sex drive and producing sperm.
Testosterone helps your body with essential functions like improvement of bone density, distribution of body fat, muscle strength, muscle mass, production of red blood cells, and growth of facial and body hair.
Why Men Use Testosterone Therapy
Testosterone levels start dropping as you age. Older men should have testing done to determine if low testosterone or “low T” is due to aging or a condition called hypogonadism.
Hypogonadism is prevalent in men ages 60-80, with chances increasing 20-50% over time. The condition hinders the testicles from producing enough testosterone or the pituitary gland from regulating the testicles.
Testosterone levels drop too low and may require testosterone replacement therapy to correct the levels. Some men take testosterone replacement therapy, or TRT, to help improve physical appearance and mental clarity.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT)
If you have low testosterone, you may or may not need testosterone therapy. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves TRT to be given only to hypogonadal men, even though older men with low testosterone take it for a boost.
Should you have symptoms of low testosterone or a blood test that reveals low levels, your doctor will let you know if replacement is necessary. Two readings less than 300 ng/dL, along with symptoms, will suggest you need therapy.
If your testosterone level drops naturally, TRT won’t be necessary. It’s a part of life, but your doctor may monitor your levels periodically to prevent any problems.
So, what is TRT therapy? TRT, also known as androgen replacement therapy, is a lifelong treatment that includes checking your hormone levels every six months to a year. You want to make sure you need TRT before you consider it because of the potential side effects.
We will discuss the side effects of TRT in a moment, but first, let’s talk about how testosterone therapy can help you.
Benefits of Testosterone Replacement Therapy
Testosterone Replacement Therapy replaces some of that testosterone you may be missing. What else can it do? TRT can give you more energy, increase your muscle mass and strength, and restore your sex drive. You may also receive it for erectile dysfunction, which may help improve your sex life.
Forms of Testosterone Replacement Therapy
Transdermal (Gel and Patches)
There are a couple of transdermal forms of TRT that you can use. Transdermal means “on the skin” and is available as a patch or a gel. Common brands are Androgel and Testim.
You can apply the gel to the shoulders, upper arms, and abdomen. Be sure to cover the areas because if someone touches the gel, it can transfer to them and cause reactions.
Apply the patch to alternating areas of your body at the same time every evening. Replace the patch every 24 hours.
Your doctor can administer a daily injection of Depo-Testosterone into your upper outer thigh or in the form of pellets under the skin every 1-2 weeks. Watch for redness, swelling, and pain at the injection site.
Symptoms of Low Testosterone
Just as everyone is unique, the side effects of low testosterone can vary per person. Some men may display side effects, while others may have no side effects at all. Here is a list of symptoms of low T you should be aware of:
- Low sex drive
- Difficulty having an erection
- Fatigue with or without lack of energy
- Decrease in muscle mass
- Low energy levels
- Loss of facial or body hair
- Lack of concentration
- Feelings of depression
- Lack of physical and emotional well-being
What Are the Side Effects of Testosterone Replacement Therapy?
Like all drug therapies, there is a risk of developing side effects from testosterone replacement therapy. They can range from mild to severe.
Common Side Effects of TRT
Common side effects include infertility, shrinking of testicles, skin irritation, breast enlargement, and risk of BPH (benign prostate hyperplasia).
Severe Side Effects of TRT
Long-term TRT can lead to serious medical problems. A buildup of calcium deposits in blood vessels, heart attack in men over 65 with heart disease, chronic heart failure, stroke, increased red blood cell count (polycythemia), complications with sleep apnea, and risk of prostate cancer are examples.
The risk for blood clots is high. According to the FDA, testosterone replacement medication must warn against the risk of blood clots. There is no evidence that TRT prevents fractures.
Of course, you need to call your physician if you experience any of the above side effects. If your symptoms appear life-threatening, call 911.
What Is the Average Testosterone Level By Age?
Testosterone levels vary by age:
- Men ages 17-18: around 300-1200 ng/dl
- Men ages 19 and up: about 240-950 ng/dl
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some commonly asked questions.
Will testosterone replacement therapy give me energy?
Yes, TRT boosts your testosterone level, which increases energy.
Does insurance cover the cost of testosterone replacement therapy?
It depends on your insurance and your testosterone level. You will probably require testing before your insurance decides to cover it. You should contact your insurance company.
How long does testosterone replacement therapy last?
There is no indication of how long therapy will last. Some studies say that results vary per person and dose of medicine, and other studies suggest that long-term replacement therapy can cause health complications.
Testosterone has many functions. It helps improve sex drive, produce sperm, improve bone density, decrease body fat, strengthen muscles, and make red blood cells. Symptoms of low testosterone vary from mild to severe. If you experience any of them, report symptoms to your doctor to follow up with testing.
A low T level may or may not display symptoms. Testosterone Replacement Therapy is the solution of choice only for men who have hypogonadism and are symptomatic. Be sure to discuss the potential benefits and risks with your doctor before deciding if it’s the right treatment for you.