As you age, testosterone therapy might sound promising. But there are a lot of misconceptions about what the treatment can and can’t do for you
Testosterone therapy might seem like the ultimate anti-aging formula. Yet the health benefits of testosterone therapy for age-related decline in testosterone aren’t clear
Testosterone Therapy and Erectile Dysfunction
Testosterone therapy might seem like the ultimate anti-aging formula. Yet the health benefits of testosterone therapy for age-related decline in testosterone aren’t clear.
As you age, testosterone therapy might sound promising. But there are a lot of misconceptions about what the treatment can and can’t do for you. “Testosterone therapy is not a fountain of youth,” says Ian Banks, MD, a professor of medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine and a urologist with the Indiana University Health Male Clinic.
The Benefits of Testosterone Therapy
Testosterone is a natural hormone found in both men and women. It helps maintain muscle mass, bone density, and red blood cell production, and it also affects mood and sex drive.
As men and women age, levels of testosterone decline. In men, the decline is often gradual and doesn’t cause symptoms. But in some men, especially those who are obese or have diabetes, testosterone levels can drop suddenly and cause symptoms such as erectile dysfunction and a decrease in muscle mass and bone density. Men with low testosterone levels may have an increased risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and depression.
It’s not clear whether testosterone therapy can help prevent or treat these conditions, but many men are turning to therapy as a way to reverse the effects of aging.
How Testosterone Therapy Works
Testosterone therapy comes in two forms:
Hormone replacement therapy: Testosterone is available in the form of a patch, gel, or injection.
Testosterone is available in the form of a patch, gel, or injection. Androgen replacement therapy: This form of therapy is available in the form of a pill.
Testosterone therapy is controversial. It’s not clear whether the treatment is effective in treating the conditions mentioned above. But one thing is clear — the therapy can cause serious side effects, such as enlargement of the breast tissue. Men who choose testosterone therapy should be monitored carefully.
Testosterone therapy can also cause an increase in red blood cells, which might increase the risk of blood clots. If a man is at high risk for cardiovascular disease, testosterone therapy might not be a good idea.
Testosterone Therapy for Erectile Dysfunction
Many men choose testosterone therapy to treat erectile dysfunction. But it’s not clear whether testosterone therapy can cause erections.
“My patients tell me it works,” Banks says. “If a patient says it works for him, I’m going to take his word for it.”
But the evidence is mixed. Some studies show that testosterone therapy can help men with erectile dysfunction. In other studies, men didn’t experience any improvement.
“If you’re going to try testosterone therapy, you should make sure to tell your doctor you have erectile dysfunction,” Banks says.
It’s also important to tell your doctor if you have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, he says.
Testosterone therapy is not a magic bullet, and it might not be right for you. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors for heart disease and other health problems. If you and your doctor decide that testosterone therapy is right for you, be sure to ask about the risks and the benefits.
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