In the field of sexology, when we talk about hormones in men, we are most of the times referring to the big T, the testosterone hormone. Testosterone is produced in the testes of men. Testosterone is a very important in a man’s body because of the following reasons:
- Testosterone is the responsible hormone for development of male reproductive organs.
- Testosterone regulates the sexual functioning and the ability of the male body.
- Testosterone is needed for muscle building and strengthening.
- In order to main proper bone density by the body, testosterone is required.
- It aids in red blood cell production.
- Testosterone is responsible for sperm production.
- Development of facial and body hair is governed by testosterone in the body.
With age, the levels of testosterone decreases in any man’s body. And that results in acquiring some medical conditions in some men. Experts disagree on the benefits that Hormone Replacement Therapy in men can bring in, so some may prefer to administer while some may not.
What happens to the levels of testosterone with age?
The level of testosterone in a male reaches it’s peak during adolescence and then stays relatively steady until the age of 30. After that, a gradual reduction (of 1% per year or 10% per decade) can be noticed. This is pretty common and this continues till the man reaches the age of 70 – 80 years. However, there are certain situations when the gradual drop turns into sudden drop of testosterone. One such condition that results in bigger drops in testosterone levels is Hypogonadism. In men suffering from hypogonadism, their testicles fail to make enough amounts of testosterone required. This can be due to the problem in the testes (which might in turn be due to medications, injury or a problematic surgery etc) or due to the problem in pituitary gland. (Pituitary gland signals organs in the body to produce hormones. It controls the hormone production inside the body).
What happens as testosterone levels decrease in a man’s body?
Symptoms of low testosterone in a man’s body include:
- Reduced interest in sex and fewer erections (erectile dysfunction).
- Bodily changes – reduced muscle strength, increased fat content in the body, swollen or tender breasts, loss of body hair, fatigue etc.
- Mental Changes – decreased motivation, depression or low self confidence, problem concentrating and remembering etc.
There are several other medical conditions that can show similar symptoms. If you happen to see some of the symptoms in you, you must see a sexologist immediately and get yourself evaluated. The first test may be to check free floating testosterone levels in your blood. This is usually done in the (early) morning time when the levels are high. Typically, the test is repeated 2 or 3 times to ascertain the right levels of testosterone present in the body.
What are the ways in which testosterone is administered as a part of HRT?
In Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), testosterone is administered in multiple ways.
- Injections – Testosterone hormone is injected intra muscularly once in two or three weeks.
- Patches – These hormone releasing patches are stuck on the back, to the buttocks, arms or abdomen. They slowly release testosterone into the body. (Unlike the injection which injects all at once).
- Gels – Testosterone gels are often applied on hands, abdomen or shoulders. (Make sure you don’t get into contact with children when you apply these gels).
Which is the best option for administration of testosterone? Your doctor will decide depending on your convenience and body requirement.
Does Hormone Replacement Therapy boost vitality or sex stamina?
There is no hard evidence that testosterone therapy will boost the sex stamina or vitality in men with normal levels of the hormone. Some men claim that they feel the increased energy and strength while undergoing the therapy. But, in men suffering from hypogonadism, HRT has shown noticeable improvement by reversing the effect of low testosterone.
Risks associated with HRT in Men
Risks exist with any type of treatment. The point that is considered is whether the benefits outweigh the risks and if it is worth taking. Some risks do come with HRT out of which few may be very mild and few may be serious that will need your doctor’s intervention.
- Frequent Urination
- Enlargement of Breast
- If you are suffering from sleep apnea, it may worsen with HRT.
- Increased levels of bad cholesterol
- Decreased sperm production and shrunken testicles. If there is excess amount of testosterone in the body, testicles try to make even less amounts naturally which causes testicles to shrink. In normal men, testicles return to normal size once (after few months) they stop HRT.
- Increased production of red blood cells. (This in turn can cause muscle pain, high blood pressure, blurred vision, blood clots etc).