For many people, testosterone replacement therapy seems like the ideal anti-aging solution. Testosterone levels peak during adolescence and decrease as you age, so anything that replaces what you’ve lost seems promising. And yet, while it can be effective in treating certain conditions and helping some men maintain muscle mass and their sex drive, there are side effects that need to be considered as well. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of testosterone replacement therapy so you can decide whether it is right for you.
Benefits of Testosterone Replacement Therapy
Testosterone replacement therapy is at its most useful when it is used to treat hypogonadism, a condition in which the body’s sex glands produce little to no testosterone. It is most commonly seen in older men and can be caused by trauma, infection, some autoimmune disorders, or due to genetic factors. The signs and symptoms of hypogonadism include muscle loss, a decrease in bone density, decreased sex drive, and breast growth in men. When it occurs in women, it can also cause hot flashes, mood swings, and irregular menstruation. Hormone replacement therapy in the form of pills, gels, or injections can offset these symptoms by increasing the levels of testosterone in the body. Of course, testosterone levels naturally decrease as we age.
Testosterone levels are at their highest during puberty and early adulthood and decrease by about one percent a year after age 30 or 40. This is different from hypogonadism, which causes a more rapid decrease in testosterone. Still, this gradual loss can still cause physical and emotional changes in people as they age. Some men turn to testosterone replacement therapy to offset the natural loss of testosterone caused by aging, and many do believe that it helps them feel younger and more vigorous. However, there is little hard evidence that shows that testosterone replacement therapy is truly an effective anti-aging solution. It’s certainly effective in treating hypogonadism, but it can’t stop the natural aging process, something that is more than just decreased testosterone.
Side Effects of Testosterone Replacement Therapy
All drugs and medical treatments can have side effects, and testosterone replacement therapy is no exception. Some of the side effects and risks associated with testosterone replacement therapy are:
- Increased sleep apnea, a potentially dangerous condition that can cause you to temporarily stop breathing while you sleep.
- Acne and other skin reactions.
- Noncancerous prostate growth or the increase of existing prostate cancer.
- Enlarged breasts.
- Decreased sperm production, often accompanied by shrinking testicles.
- Increased red blood cell production, which can cause clotting that can lead to a pulmonary embolism.
It should be noted that most of these risks and side effects are more common in those who use testosterone replacement therapy to counteract normal aging. They are far less common in those who are taking testosterone to treat hypogonadism. Still, there is always a risk of developing side effects, so speak to your doctor before you begin any kind of hormone replacement therapy. Most doctors will advise against using testosterone replacement therapy to counteract natural aging.
If you don’t have a medical condition such as hypogonadism that can cause an abnormal drop in testosterone levels, your doctor will likely advise natural ways of boosting your testosterone levels such as regular exercise to increase muscle mass, eating healthy sources of protein and carbohydrates in moderation, and finding ways to decrease stress levels. On the other hand, if you do live with hypogonadism or you believe that your decreased testosterone levels are due to other factors, speak to your doctor about testosterone replacement therapy.
More research does need to be completed on using this treatment as a fountain of youth, but it is viable when it comes to treating certain medical conditions. As always, if you have any questions about testosterone replacement therapy and what it can do for you, feel free to contact us at any time. We recommend speaking to your primary doctor as well, but we will be more than happy to answer any questions that you might have. Contact us today at 205-352-9141.