Testosterone Replacement

By Jake Alexandre

Testosterone is an important hormone for both men and women. It has a far larger affect in men than women however. In men testosterone is produced within the testes by specialised cells called Leydig cells. A small amount of testosterone is also produced by the adrenal glands located above the kidneys.

Testosterone peaks during adolescence and early adulthood. As you get older, your testosterone level gradually declines - typically about 1 percent a year after age 30. It is important to determine in older men if a low testosterone level is simply due to the decline of normal aging or if it is due to a disease (hypogonadism).

Although it is the primary male hormone, women also benefit from having adequate levels of this hormone that is produced in the testis, ovaries and adrenal glands. At optimal levels testosterone increases bone density and aids bone formation, increases muscle strength and muscle mass, enhances energy and sex drive, improves erectile function, decreases body fat, has a positive effect on lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) increasing HDL (good cholesterol), lowers blood pressure, creates a sense of well being, and protects the brain against the protein deposits that lead to Alzheimer's disease.

Testosterone does not cause or produce deleterious effects on prostate cancer. In people who have undergone testosterone deprivation therapy, testosterone increases beyond the castrate level have been shown to increase the rate of spread of an existing prostate cancer. Recent studies have shown conflicting results concerning the importance of testosterone in maintaining cardiovascular health. Nevertheless, maintaining normal testosterone levels in elderly men has been shown to improve many parameters which are thought to reduce cardiovascular disease risk, such as increased lean body mass, decreased visceral fat mass, decreased total cholesterol, and glycemic control.

Testosterone therapy can help reverse the effects of hypogonadism, but it's unclear whether testosterone therapy would have any benefit for older men who are otherwise healthy. Although some men believe that taking testosterone medications may help them feel younger and more vigorous as they age, few rigorous studies have examined testosterone therapy in men who have healthy testosterone levels - and some small studies have revealed mixed results. For example, in one study healthy men who took testosterone medications increased muscle mass but didn't gain strength.

Testosterone replacement may contribute to sleep apnea - a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. It can also cause your body to make too many red blood cells (polycythemia), which can increase the risk of heart disease and cause acne or other skin diseases. It can stimulate noncancerous growth of the prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia) and possibly stimulate growth of existing prostate cancer, enlarge breasts or limit sperm production.

Unnecessary testosterone replacement may leave a man at higher risk for developing prostate cancer. Testosterone replacement can contribute to liver disease. For those who need testosterone, replacement therapy can improve quality of life. If used cautiously and appropriately, testosterone can be very beneficial. Ask your doctor to measure your baseline testosterone level. If and when you develop symptoms like MC, a baseline testosterone level can help identify deficiencies. Ask your doctor if testosterone replacement is right for you.

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