Testosterone replacement therapy has become popular in the last few years. Millions of Americans use testosterone replacement in the form of gels, creams, and injections to restore normal testosterone levels. The reason is that when men have low testosterone, it causes low sex drive, weaker muscles, reduced bone density, and mood changes. Testosterone replacement eases these symptoms and makes people feel younger. However, some question the effectiveness and safety of testosterone replacement therapies for men's health.
In this article, we'll discuss what testosterone is, is it safe, and the possible side effects.
Testosterone is a male sex hormone produced mostly in the testes. Although women produce the hormone in the ovaries, the amount of testosterone is less. Women produce more estrogen than men. Testosterone is responsible for many critical bodily functions, including sexual health. It helps make male sex organs as boys develop. It also supports physical characteristics associated with men like facial hair, broader shoulders, and denser muscle mass.
Testosterone also contributes to erectile function when experiencing sexual excitement. A high testosterone level ensures proper, sexually functional erections. Testosterone levels fluctuate throughout the day and one's life. Usually, hormone levels begin to decrease after age 30. Lower levels could result in less interest in sex, and possible weaker erections, as well as weaker muscles
While the potential benefits of testosterone supplementation include improving erectile dysfunction and other health conditions, there are some risks. According to the Mayo Clinic, long term testosterone treatment might contribute to sleep apnea, cause acne, or limit sperm production. Other risks include blood clots and high blood pressure.
While the risks are small, the Harvard Medical School urges people that are considering testosterone injections to speak to their doctor before beginning treatment. Testosterone therapy stops the natural production in the body, making people feel worse after they stop.
Some studies show that testosterone therapy may increase your risk for prostate cancer, but the research is conflicted. In a study by Charles Brenton Huggins and Clarence Hodges in the 1940s showed that when testosterone levels dropped, so did prostate cancer growth. This is why hormone therapy to lower testosterone levels in men is used to treat an enlarged prostate today. However, other studies revealed that men with testosterone deficiencies have a higher risk of prostate cancer.
While previous studies have shown a link between cardiovascular events like heart disease and heart attacks, recent research has shown the connection to be unclear. For example, in 2014, a study showed that men undergoing testosterone therapy had a slight increase risk for heart failure for men over age 65. But then an extensive study of 1,000 men over three years showed they did not have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Testosterone therapy is relatively safe overall but does come with some risk. Men with a history of prostate cancer or over age 65 may have slightly higher risks than others. With all hormone therapy, consider the benefits and risks before beginning treatment.