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Treating Low T: March 30, 2013

Low testosterone is hitting men below the belt, leaving behind a negative effect on their physical and emotional health.

“When you are young you have high levels and as you age those levels gradually decrease. But it can lead to a lot of symptoms and side effects. Symptoms can be fatigue, decreased sexual desire, generalized muscle weakness, weak bones. It can also lead to cardiac disease and diabetes,” says Dr. James Borden, urologist with Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

Weight gain is also associated with low t.  Sometimes called hypogonadism, the sex glands produce little or no hormones. Low testosterone is a medical condition that can be confirmed with a blood test.

“We check a testosterone level to determine if it’s below normal. A testosterone level less than 200 definitely would be a low level. Not everyone has symptoms, so you have to match the symptoms with the level,” says Dr. Borden.

If levels are low and symptoms are high, doctors will often recommend hormone replacement.  It can come in the form of injections, gels and implantable pellets. They work the same, delivering a steady dose of hormone.

“You have to be on testosterone for three or four months before you actually can determine if your symptoms are better. So it’s not an initial response. You may see some improvement right away, but to really know if it’s going to work a trial of three or four months is preferable,” says Dr. Borden.

The FDA approved hormone replacement for men who meet the criteria, and should be carried out under a doctor’s supervision.

“You do have to monitor someone’s blood count to make sure the red blood cell count does not go up. You should monitor someone for prostate cancer, although testosterone replacement doesn’t cause prostate cancer, you want to make sure you don’t stimulate something that was not visible before,” says Dr. Borden.

Low t isn’t something men like to crow about, though many could benefit from therapy.

“About 16 million men suffer from low testosterone but only 10% are receiving treatment, so it’s really an under treated problem,” says Dr. Borden