You have probably heard about testosterone replacement therapy. You may have wondered if this is right for you. While only a physician can answer that question for you as an individual, this article will explain what testosterone therapy can and cannot do and when it’s appropriate to take testosterone hormone supplements.
Testosterone is called the male hormone. It does develop and maintain the male sex organs and is responsible for the secondary male sex characteristics, such as a facial beard, body hair, larger muscle mass and a deep voice. The hormone is produced primarily in the testicles and is released directly into the bloodstream. However, the adrenal glands, which sit stop the kidneys, also manufacture some testosterone. The whole thing is directed by the pituitary gland in the brain. It signals the testicles to produce more of the hormone when blood levels drop too low.
In order to understand what blood testosterone level numbers mean, you must first understand the difference between free testosterone or free T and total testosterone or total T. When the testicles, and to a lesser extent, the adrenals, release testosterone into the bloodstream, some of it will be bound to other proteins like albumin. The rest of the hormone will remain free, meaning not bound to a protein. The bound and unbound testosterone levels together comprise the total T figure. However, since the protein-bound testosterone isn’t typically available to enter cells, the real measurement of testosterone activity lies in the percentage of free T. This is why a man can have a seemingly normal testosterone level and still experience symptoms of a hormone deficiency. His percentage of bound testosterone may be too high compared to his percentage of free testosterone. Before beginning any kind of testosterone replacement therapy or TRT, the physician should have an accurate measurement of both kinds of blood testosterone.
Testosterone levels will naturally decline as part of the male aging process. This is sometimes called andropause. It’s also called Low T. A typical hormone level for a 25-year-old man will be higher than one for a fifty-year-old man. This is quite normal, but some men in their early forties or so and upwards may be concerned about some symptoms of declining testosterone levels:
- More body fat
- Less muscle and bone strength
- Weight gain
- Less beard growth, body hair and reduced libido
- Mental fog
Treatment for Low T
In general, the need for TRT is determined by:
- Total testosterone level of less than 300 micrograms per deciliter of blood
- One or more clinical deficiency symptoms
Concerns about an increased risk for prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease have not been adequately demonstrated and should not be a deterrent to TRT that is otherwise medically indicated. Testosterone supplements come in many forms. Some are commercial prescription products made by pharmaceutical companies. Others are customized for individual use and made to order by a special kind of pharmacy called a compounding pharmacy. Testosterone always requires a prescription and should never be taken without medical supervision. Some forms of TRT include:
- Skin patches and gels
- Buccal tablets for oral use
- Implantable skin pellets<
Your physician will evaluate your symptoms and order testosterone level blood studies. This will give him or her an idea of what kind of a deficiency you may have and if one exists at all. Not everyone seeking this kind of hormonal therapy actually needs it. In fact, up to one-third of all men on TRT do not meet the clinical guidelines for it. Another one-quarter don’t even have their total testosterone blood levels checked before beginning therapy, and yet another one-half do not continue to receive testosterone level blood studies once they begin taking the hormone. This is not a responsible use of TRT.
Testosterone is not a magical elixir or some kind of fountain of youth substance. It’s just a hormone. If you’re not deficient, hormone supplements will not help you and may harm you. Too much testosterone can actually cause a decline in sexual function. Like all hormones in the body, there is always a balance. This balance doesn’t just involve testosterone itself. It’s also related to other hormones in the body, too.
If you’re wondering about whether TRT is right for you, we have the answers you need. Just call us at 205-352-9141 to discuss your situation with one of our professional staff members. Our physicians are experts in TRT and other types of hormone replacement therapy. We welcome all new patients.