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What is Testosterone Replacement Therapy?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 06 January 2020
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Testosterone is often called the “male” sex hormone, and equivalent to estrogen for women. Just as estrogen gradually decreases as women age, men also experience a decrease in testosterone as they age. Sometimes, certain conditions may cause greater loss of testosterone, and the lack of adequate testosterone results in loss of muscle mass, decreased production of red blood cells, and poor bone growth. Other conditions like reduced body hair, complete disinterest in sex, erectile dysfunction, weight gain, anemia, osteoporosis or heightened cholesterol levels can result from low levels of this important hormone. When hormone levels are abnormally low, physicians may recommend testosterone replacement therapy.

Testosterone replacement therapy usually comes in several different forms. Men may receive injections of the hormone every couple of weeks, they may wear an adhesive skin patch that transfers testosterone to the body, or they may receive testosterone via gel placed on the body or on the gums twice a day. You can also take daily pills to augment this hormone.

There are some side effects to testosterone replacement therapy. These can include an increase in acne, hair loss, increased or decreased urination, and enlargement of the prostate gland, shrinking of the testicles, accumulation of breast tissue, lowered sperm count, and/or fluid retention. Men with sleep apnea may find that testosterone replacement therapy worsens this condition.

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The therapy is not for everyone. Men who have had certain forms of cancer, particularly of the breast tissue or prostate should not use testosterone replacement therapy. In fact, before beginning a replacement regimen, most men undergo a thorough prostate examination, since there is increased risk of prostate cancer from augmenting testosterone.

It’s additionally important to follow all directions when are undergoing testosterone replacement therapy. You should not share your medication under any circumstances, since a person with normal testosterone levels can have severe side effects if they augment this supply with additional hormones. One of the concerns among physicians is that unscrupulous people might sell these as “steroids” to people who want to bulk up, and such use is both dangerous and illegal.

There are a number of very legitimate reasons why men may require testosterone replacement therapy. While all men experience a natural decrease in testosterone, starting at about the age of 30, some conditions may prematurely decrease testosterone to well below normal levels. Such conditions include infection or loss of the testicles, chronic illness, genetic abnormalities, high levels of stress, and pituitary gland dysfunction.

If you have had or still have any of the above conditions, and you note other symptoms of testosterone loss, you should consult a physician. Levels of the hormone are usually checked several times, since levels can fluctuate, through blood testing. Be prepared to have blood tests done in the morning, since this is usually when testosterone levels are highest. If you are diagnosed with low levels of testosterone, discuss the benefits and potential side effects of replacement therapy with your doctor to decide if augmenting your testosterone is right for you.

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