Overview of Testosterone Deficiency
As men age, the testosterone levels which define their more masculine traits naturally begin to decline. Testosterone is the sex hormone that plays key roles in male sexual development and function, and plays a significant role in health and well-being. If this deficiency is congenital or manifests early in a male's life, they may have underdeveloped sexual organs, lower muscle mass, and sparse body hair. Most men experience some level of testosterone deficiency beginning at age forty, during which testosterone
production naturally begins to decline. With the loss of this important hormone, men may have a reduced libido and suffer from anxiety and depression. They may also note a decrease in muscle tone and increase amount of abdominal fat.
Unlike its female counterpart, menopause, this decline in the primary male sex hormone is not due to a complete shutting down of the gland producing it. Because of this, medical professionals tend to reject classification of this age-related testosterone deficiency as "andropause" or male menopause. Still, it can be a difficult enough issue emotionally, physically, and sexually, that many men seek treatment for their deficiency.
Symptoms of Testosterone Deficiency
Testosterone levels are closely linked with masculine sex characteristics, so men with declining testosterone may find themselves feeling less "manly." Infertility, reduced libido, and erectile dysfunction are common symptoms of insufficient testosterone. Weight gain, particularly around the waist, may also signal hormonal imbalance.
There are also a variety of emotional symptoms associated with testosterone deficiency. In both men and women, the presence of the hormone is tied to a sense of confidence and positive well-being, both potentially lost if testosterone levels diminish. This may also be accompanied by depression, anxiety, mood swings, and difficulty concentrating.
Risk Factors of Testosterone Deficiency
Reduced testosterone can lead to a decrease in muscle mass and increase in weight gain, a combination that can quickly lead to unhealthy body composition if care is not taken to maintain physical fitness. Those with declining testosterone are also at a greater risk for osteoporosis, a reduction in bone mineral density that can cause bones to become brittle and break more easily.
Aside from infertility, the sexual side effects mainly have an emotional impact on men with testosterone deficiency. As sexuality is an important part of well-being, reduced virility can lead to emotional and psychological problems, including anxiety and depression. The testosterone deficiency itself can also lead to mood changes as well as memory loss.
Causes of Testosterone Deficiency
Testosterone levels naturally decrease with age, beginning to decline at age forty and continuing to decrease through the years. Some younger men also experience testosterone deficiency, sometimes due to medical conditions that inhibit hormone production. If there is insufficient signaling from the pituitary gland or perhaps an issue with the testes themselves, insufficient testosterone may be produced.
Any illnesses or health conditions that effect testicular health, such as cancer or sarcoidosis, can potentially impact testosterone production. Chronic illnesses, including AIDS, can potentially disrupt proper testosterone secretion. Alcoholism can also lead to reduced testosterone.
Certain medical treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation for cancer, can harm the testes and reduce testosterone levels. Decreased testosterone is also a side effect of many medications prescribed for depression and mental illness. Emotional stress can also reduce testosterone levels, as it strains the adrenal system which also secretes small amounts of the hormone.
Conventional Treatment of Testosterone Deficiency
Doctors can confirm through medical diagnostics whether there is a significant testosterone deficiency. In cases of congenital testosterone deficiency, testosterone is usually supplemented to promote proper sexual development (descent of the testes, etc). The value of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) in men undergoing the normal, modest decline in testosterone that accompanies advancing age is debated among medical professionals, however.
Because there are potential physical, sexual, and psychological benefits of restoring testosterone levels, some doctors prescribe TRT in aging men. Synthetic testosterone is available in numerous forms, including pills, gels, creams, patches, and injections. TRT should be approached carefully and under medical supervision, as there are many side effects that should be monitored, including nausea, vomiting, acne, and headaches. Some patients undergoing TRT may also notice increased appetites and negative mood changes, as too much testosterone can cause aggression ("roid rage"). Although there are some sexual benefits, TRT can also cause priapism, a condition in which the patient experiences painful erections that last more than four hours. The long term effects of undergoing TRT are also unknown.
Patients Medical's Treatment of Testosterone Deficiency
First, our integrative physicians will perform a complete physical exam, including blood diagnostics to assess testosterone levels. Most men only experience a modest decline in testosterone upon reaching middle age, meaning that many of the symptoms that they are attributing to testosterone deficiency are related to other health issues. We will take all that we learn about your current state of health, including any hormonal imbalances, and help design a treatment program ideal for your age, body type, and lifestyle.
To help combat fatigue, loss of muscle mass, and weight gain, we can help design a modified diet, fortified with natural nutritional supplements to promote healthy body chemistry. Herbal supplements, such as ginseng and St. John's wort may also be prescribed to boost energy and help ease depression as you begin to approach a new, healthier lifestyle. Patients may also try consuming maca, a South American plant that has been reported to increase sex drive, although it does not impact hormone levels. Regular exercise to maintain muscle tone and improve energy is also advised.
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