Testosterone is not just for bodybuilders. In fact, testosterone plays a vital role in a range of bodily functions for men.
Testosterone is what helps you play sports without breaking your bones, keep things organized at work, and maintain a healthy sex life at home.
As men age, the testosterone in the body depletes. This can cause a wide range of uncomfortable and dangerous side effects.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy or TRT helps to replenish lost testosterone to help you feel like yourself again.
What Men Need to Know About Testosterone Therapy
TRT is a treatment that doctors give to males who have testosterone deficiency. It is sometimes called androgen replacement therapy.
TRT is primarily used to treat androgen deficiency syndromes, or male hypogonadism, which can occur with age-related low testosterone or as a result of a medical condition.
There are two types of male hypogonadism:
- Primary Hypogonadism – Testosterone deficiency syndrome results from medical issues with the gonads not producing sufficient levels of testosterone.
- Central (Secondary) Hypogonadism – Low Testosterone results from issues in the hypothalamus or pituitary gland.
Signs You Need Testosterone Replacement Therapy
These are the most common symptoms to look for that may indicate your testosterone levels are lower than normal.
- Erectile Dysfunction – Testosterone deficiency makes it difficult to get or maintain an erection.
- Hair Loss – While most hair loss is genetic. If you don’t have a family history of hair loss and are noticing thinning it could be due to low testosterone.
- Reduced Bone Mass –Testosterone is responsible for producing bone tissue, low testosterone leads to weaker and decreased bone density.
- Reduction in Testicle Size – A man experiencing low testosterone may notice a reduction in testicle size or a softer scrotum than usual.
- Reduction in Semen – Reduced levels of semen can indicate a reduction in testosterone and can contribute to fertility problems.
- Difficulty Sleeping – Low testosterone can lead to sleep apnea or insomnia.
- Lowered Sex Drive – Men with low testosterone may experience a decrease in the desire for sex.
- Reduced Muscle Mass – Because testosterone plays a large role in developing muscles, reduced muscle mass can be a sign of low testosterone.
- Hot Flashes – While this is a common side of menopause, it can also occur in men with low levels of testosterone.
- Decrease in Energy Levels – If you notice everyday chores make you more tired than usual, it could be due to lower than normal testosterone levels.
- Increase in Body Fat – Most men with low testosterone notice an increase in body fat around the midsection and sometimes enlargement of the breasts.
- Mood Swings – Lack of focus, irritability, and depression can all be signs of low testosterone.
Types of Testosterone Therapy for Men
There are several different methods for delivering TRT in men.
The type of testosterone that will work best for you is based on medical history, individual needs, lifestyle, and personal preference.
- Intramuscular Testosterone Injections – This is an injection of testosterone directly into the muscle. It is inexpensive and very common, usually given every month or two.
- Testosterone Implants or Patches – Testosterone therapy implants or skin patches are a convenient way to deliver a steady dose of testosterone. Skin patches stay on for 24 hours and then are removed until the next dose is needed. Pellets will dissolve naturally on their own.
- Topical Testosterone – A testosterone gel or cream is absorbed directly through the skin once a day and causes a more stable delivery of testosterone in the blood.
- Capsules (Methyltestosterone and Android) – A daily testosterone pill is less commonly used because it is typically more expensive and less practical.
- Boosters (Testofen) – Boosters are designed to provide an increase in muscle mass, strength, and sex drive in men. They may also have a number of side effects and shouldn’t be used regularly.
Benefits of Balancing Testosterone Levels
Testosterone is an important hormone for male development and masculine characteristics. It also helps the human body to function as it should.
Going to the doctor to talk about your hormones can be an uncomfortable situation, but testosterone treatment can improve your quality of life significantly.
Most men choose to talk to their doctor about prescribing testosterone replacement therapy to help with one or more of these testosterone benefits:
- Remedying Erectile Dysfunction – Before the release of Viagra in 1998, TRT was the main treatment for sexual dysfunction in men. Testosterone alone may still be more effective in some cases.
- Enhancing Physical Performance – Testosterone is often used by athletes and bodybuilders to increase muscle mass and enhance performance.
- Healthy Heart & Blood – Testosterone helps red blood cell production to keep your heart healthy. Testosterone replacement therapy can help reduce the risk of heart disease such as attack and stroke in men.
- Less Fat, More Muscle – For men with low testosterone, TRT can help increase muscle size and strength while decreasing fat mass.
- Stronger Bones – Bone density decreases with age. TRT can strengthen bone density to support your muscles and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
- Mental Health – Research shows that TRT can contribute to better verbal memory, spatial abilities, or mathematical reasoning while reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s in men.
- Better Libido – Men with higher testosterone have greater sexual function, performance, and pleasure.
- Improved Mood – Low levels of testosterone may be associated with depression, fatigue, and irritability. Testosterone replacement therapy can have a positive effect on improving your mood and well-being.
Risks and Side Effects of Testosterone Therapy
Testosterone therapy prescription is not a magic pill and still carries side effects and risks that every patient should be aware of. A relatively small number of men experience immediate side effects of testosterone treatment.
Experts emphasize that some of the risks of testosterone therapy are still under research through larger clinical trials.
- Heart Attack – A recent study showed older men who used testosterone replacement therapy for one year had an increase or coronary artery plaque, which may lead to an increased risk of heart attack.
- Risk of Cardiovascular Problems – For men with congestive heart failure or any cardiovascular disease, TRT can worsen the condition and should not be taken.
- Blood Clots – Testosterone products all have a warning label about the risk of blood clots. Due to the rise in red blood cells that sometimes occurs with TRT.
- Potential Stroke Risk – The results here have been mixed, but some studies indicate an increased risk of stroke associated with testosterone replacement therapy.
- Risk of Prostate Cancer – Those who have been diagnosed or are at risk of developing prostate cancer should not take testosterone replacement therapy.
- Sleep Apnea – For men with sleep apnea, TRT may worsen the condition. A sleep study is the best way to tell if sleep apnea is a concern.
- Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH) – This is a condition where the prostate grows larger and squeezes the urethra. Some experts believe TRT may worsen this condition.
How Much Does Testosterone Therapy Cost?
Most insurance companies cover all forms of testosterone replacement therapy, which means you’ll only need to cover the copay when you visit the doctor.
Co-pays can range anywhere from $30-$100 per doctor’s visit.
Without insurance, testosterone replacement therapy costs range from $150–$1,500 per month depending on the type of TRT, the mode and frequency of administration.
Who Should Not Take Testosterone Therapy
TRT has been shown to have significant health benefits to millions of men around the globe. However, it is important to talk to your doctor to see if it is a good fit for you.
There are some men who are not ideal candidates for TRT.
- Prostate Cancer Patient – If you have had advanced prostate cancer in the past, TRT may not be a recommended option for you.
- Congestive Heart Failure Patient – Because of the risk associated with cardiovascular function, if you have heart failure already you are not an ideal candidate for testosterone replacement therapy.
- Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy – If you have a prostate disease or an enlarged prostate, testosterone may make your symptoms worse.
- Those Who Want to Have Children – Typically, testosterone treatments are used for older men who are out of their reproductive years. If you are hoping to have children in the future, you should discuss this with your doctor before starting any testosterone treatment.
- Polycythemia Patient – This is a blood condition that produces too much red blood. Testosterone can make this worse because it may increase the production of red blood cells.
- Sleep Apnea Patient – If you are concerned about sleep apnea, you should have a sleep study done before you start a testosterone treatment plan.
- Seriously Overweight Individual – Men who are more than 30 pounds overweight often have low testosterone concentrations. However, in these cases, seeing weight loss specialist is more important and effective than TRT.
Alternative Treatments for Testosterone Therapy
If testosterone replacement therapy is not for you, there are a variety of alternative methods that can help alleviate symptoms and give you increased quality of life.