Noble McIntyre on March 18, 2014
In last week’s part I of our series on testosterone therapy, we discussed the risks associated with various types of treatments. However, one recurring theme with respect to testosterone therapy is that many men who have received and are receiving treatment for the condition do not actually have Low-T.
There are a number of symptoms that point to a man’s potentially experiencing Low-T (low testosterone, also known as hypogonadism). However, a diagnosis should be based upon a combination of symptoms, physical exam and a blood test. Even a blood test, alone, is not always an accurate predictor of Low-T; because laboratory practices differ with respect to blood sample collection, storage, and methods of analysis, there’s not a specific number or baseline that truly indicates that a man is suffering from Low-T.
If you are experiencing the following symptoms, though, it would be a good idea to see your primary provider or a urologist for a physical exam and blood test:
Of course, each of these symptoms can also be linked to other illnesses, so if you are experiencing one or more, you should visit your physician for an exam. The reason why a thorough physical exam plus a blood test is essential in diagnosing Low-T is because while many of these symptoms can signal other serious illnesses, sometimes they are also just signs of aging. Some men end up being treated for Low-T when they actually are only experiencing age-related testosterone dips, not hypogonadism.
There are lots of reasons why you don’t want to be treated for hypogonadism if you don’t actually have it. It may be tempting to use a medication or treatment that promises to increase your sex drive or cure your erectile dysfunction, but there are definite and irreversible risks involved. Testosterone therapy can raise a man’s red blood cell count, which thickens the blood and could raise the likelihood of a stroke or heart attack. Also, there are some less common side effects like sleep apnea, acne and breast enlargement. While there’s not a definitive link between testosterone therapy and prostate cancer, studies are ongoing and little is known as to whether it presents a long-term risk.
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicated that of 1,223 men who had undergone testosterone therapy and whose average age was 60, there was a 30 percent greater risk of stroke, heart attack and death as compared to those who had not received the therapy. However, although it has been indicated that men with low testosterone had a slightly higher risk of heart attack than men with normal testosterone levels, there is nothing that shows that testosterone therapy benefits those men with respect to their heart health. The overriding recommendation is that only men who have unequivocally low testosterone levels and consistent symptoms become candidates for testosterone therapy.
If you are experiencing symptoms associated with Low-T, visit your doctor. Make sure that the physician performs a thorough physical exam, along with bloodwork and asks questions about your medical history and current condition.