Male hormone therapy is replacement of male hormones, especially testosterone, to correct or improve problems caused by this reduction. It is believed that hormone replacement therapy improves a myriad of problems that men commonly experience as they age. The reduction of male hormone levels might be natural or a product of environmental or medical factors. Male hormone therapy might also involve the rebalancing of testosterone levels in proportion to estrogen. Levels of testosterone’s main precursor, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) might also need to be supplemented.
As men age, their bodies produce increasingly less testosterone. This gradual tipping of the hormonal scale produces changes that eventually become noticeable. Some medical practitioners and scientists term this phenomenon andropause or male menopause. The changes associated with so-called andropause are far less dramatic than those in female menopause, and men are still able to father children. Andropause has a long duration relative to female menopause, about 15 to 20 years.
Symptoms of low testosterone include decreased sex drive, depression and fatigue. Other symptoms are loss of muscle mass, insomnia, abnormal cholesterol, trouble concentrating, and cognitive dysfunction. Male hormone therapy has been shown to treat most or all these symptoms successfully.
One cause of testosterone loss is the conversion of testosterone to estrogen. This is done by an enzyme aromatase, which comes from fat. The more fat tissue a man has, the more aromatase he produces, and the more testosterone is converted into estrogen.
Most blood testosterone is bound to a protein called sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). Testosterone in the blood must be free in order to be active. Aging men often have lower levels of free testosterone and more SHBG-bound testosterone in their bodies. Male hormone therapy helps to increase the level of free testosterone in the blood as well as to lower the ratio of estrogen to testosterone.
Male hormone therapy might be used to treat medical symptoms that are often mistaken for causes themselves. High cholesterol results from low testosterone because cholesterol plays a part in testosterone production. Certain types of antidepressants might lower testosterone levels, causing more depression.
It is important to be careful with male hormone therapy, as too much male hormone can cause problems. Testing blood hormone levels is critical in determining whether male hormone supplementation is advisable. One of the most important tests is a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level to check for the presence of prostate cancer, because male hormone supplementation could worsen prostate cancer.