What to Know about Testosterone Therapy
As men age and experience reduced levels of testosterone, they may consider the use of prescription drugs to increase their vitality, libido and energy. According to the New York Times, testosterone use by males over 40 quadrupled from 2001 to 2011. There are many testosterone treatment drugs available, however research shows that these medications have potentially dangerous health risks, leading to heart problems and more.
Understanding Testosterone and Age
Testosterone is a naturally occurring hormone produced in the testicles. Levels of the hormone peak during adolescence and early adulthood before gradually starting to decline in a man’s 30s or 40s at a rate of about one percent per year. Testosterone has a lot of purposes – it helps regulate bone density, fat distribution, muscle strength and mass, facial and body hair, red blood cell production, sex drive and sperm production.
While it’s completely normal for testosterone levels to decrease as a man ages, there is another type of testosterone reduction that is more serious. Hypogonadism is a disease during which the body cannot produce a normal amount of the hormone because of a problem with the testicles or pituitary gland.
In both cases – whether a man has been diagnosed with hypogonadism or is experiencing naturally decreased levels of the hormone – testosterone therapy is prescribed to treat the symptoms.
Testosterone Therapy Drugs
Many men turn to testosterone therapy to treat the symptoms of low testosterone. “Low T” medications can come in the forms of injections, pellets, patches, tablets or gels. For patients who are experiencing hypogonadism, testosterone therapy can help reverse effects. For those using testosterone therapy to feel younger or more vigorous, but are otherwise healthy, the medication can pose certain risks.
Some of the common “low T” drugs are AndroGel, Axiron, Androderm, Bio-T-Gel, Delatestryl, Depo-Testosterone, Fortesta, Striant, Testim and Testopel. These drugs are administered in the following forms:
- Injections are administered every one to two weeks. Depo-Testosterone and Delatestryl are testosterone replacement injections.
- Gels like AndroGel, Testim, Bio-T-Gel and Fortesta are applied to the skin on the arms and shoulders daily.
- Patches are applied nightly and left in place for 24 hours. Androderm is a testosterone replacement patch.
- Implants like Testopel are pellets that are implanted under the skin during a quick procedure every few months.
- Tablets like Striant are held in the upper lip and absorbed through the gums.
Risks of Tesosterone Therapy
In 2010, a study supported by the National Institutes on Aging was published in the New England Journal of Medicine that revealed the dangers of testosterone therapy. The study provided several hundred aging men with testosterone drugs for six months. The results showed that the men felt stronger and more energized, but they also found they had five times the number of cardiovascular problems that included heart attacks and strokes. The study was cut short because of the dangers it posed to the subjects.
Additional studies from 2013 and 2014 have similar findings of an increased risk of heart disease. Other risks include sleep apnea, stimulated noncancerous growth of the prostate and also stimulated growth of existing prostate cancer, breast enlargement, limited sperm production and blood clots forming in the veins. The Food and Drug Administration is currently investigating the risks of testosterone treatment.
Seeking Legal Advice
It’s important to consult with a legal professional if you feel that your or a loved one’s health has been compromised because of testosterone therapy drugs. No matter what the circumstances, it’s most important to put your health first – if you think your testosterone therapy is putting your health at danger, be sure to talk to your doctor immediately.