How to Determine if Testosterone Therapy is Right for You

Aging men whose testosterone levels are low have reported having less energy, as well as mood swings, and a decreased libido. If this hormone is not being created in high amounts in the body anymore, it may be time to consider testosterone therapy, but there are other factors to consider.

Low testosterone levels alone do not necessarily need to be treated. Hormone replacement therapy does have its side effects, and doctors aren’t clear about the long-term benefits or risks associated with the therapy. For these reasons, testosterone replacement therapy should be reserved for men who have low testosterone symptoms and have confirmed that decreased testosterone is the cause of their symptoms. Consulting with a doctor is the most definite way for a man to determine if the hormone replacement therapy is right for him.

Karen Herbst, MD, PhD and endocrinologist at the University of California San Diego, has studied low testosterone in men in detail. It is her estimation that one in every 10 men are “ecstatic” about the positive way their bodies respond to testosterone therapy. However, the same number of men have also reported that they don’t notice a significant change. Overall, men have a positive response to the therapy, but their reactions vary.

Low Testosterone-Subtle Signs

Many symptoms of low testosterone are apparent, but there are a few subtle symptoms. Testosterone naturally decreases in men as they age, and the symptoms may show up gradually. Signs of decreasing testosterone include:

  • Fatigue and lowered energy
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Low libido
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Irritability
  • Depression 
  • Low sense of self-worth

When a man has these symptoms and takes a test that confirms low testosterone levels, a doctor may recommend treatment. Medical treatment is not recommended for men who have low testosterone but are not exhibiting any symptoms.

Testosterone Supplements

Therapy for replacing testosterone comes in a number of forms. All of these methods are effective in boosting testosterone levels. Options include:

  • Skin Patch: This transdermal method, under the brand name Androderm, is worn on the upper body or arm and is applied once daily.
  • Testosterone Gel: Testim and AndroGel are clear gels that are available in packets. The testosterone is absorbed through the skin. The gel should be applied once a day. AndroGel is also available in pump form, along with Fortesta or Axiron. The pump will deliver the correct prescribed dosage each time. 
  • Testosterone Mouth Patch: Striant, a mouth patch that replaces testosterone, adheres to the upper region of the gums above the tooth that is directly to the right or left of the two front teeth. The patch is applied twice daily and sends testosterone to the blood via tissues in the mouth. 
  • Implants and Injections: The testosterone can be injected into a man’s muscles or implanted in pellet form in the body’s soft tissues. The body will natural absorb the hormone into the bloodstream.

Testosterone pills are also available. However, some medical professionals assert that these pills could affect liver function. Other methods of administering the hormone don’t involve the liver and get testosterone directly in the blood where it belongs.

Testosterone Therapy Benefits

It is virtually impossible for doctors to predict how testosterone therapy will affect a man. A number of men assert that their energy levels have increased as a result of testosterone therapy. Additional benefits, such as an improvement in sex drive and erection quality, have also been reported. However, the hormone can also increase a man’s sensitivity to insulin, as well as his bone density and muscle mass.

Some men also assert that their moods have changed for the better as a result of testosterone replacement. The degree to which a man’s mood is boosted depends on the individual.