It can be tempting to turn to testosterone replacement therapy as soon as you start noticing that something’s off with your body. Whether you experience occasional erectile dysfunction, or have had trouble maintaining muscle mass at the gym, you might suspect that your testosterone levels are low. And, testosterone therapy seems like the best way to get rid of these problems. But, it’s important to know that hormone therapy is not without risk. As with any time you get medical treatment or a medical procedure, there can be unintended side effects. You should always consult with your doctor to decide if testosterone is the best option for you.
How Is Testosterone Replacement Therapy Done?
A true testosterone deficiency can be treated in any number of ways:
1. Intramuscular injections – testosterone is administered via injection at intervals ranging from two to ten weeks apart
2. Gel – testosterone gel is applied to places where the skin is thinnest, such as inside the nose
3. Mucoadhesive material – a sticky substance containing the testosterone is applied above the teeth two times per day
4. Subcutaneous pellets – these are long-acting pellets that are inserted under the skin and administer testosterone over time
5. Testosterone stick – testosterone is applied similar to the gel, but to the underarm like a solid deodorant
If you do opt for testosterone replacement therapy, you may choose the option that is right for you. There may be different reasons to choose different methods. For example, if you can’t make an appointment often enough to get the injections, you may opt for the pellet method.
What Are the Side Effects of Testosterone Replacement Therapy?
Many of the side effects of testosterone are fairly harmless and, on the whole, testosterone replacement therapy is considered a safe method to treat low testosterone. However, some of the side effects may be slightly irritating, and many of the side effects associated with testosterone replacement are also associated with types of hormonal supplementation, such as steroid use. Acne and oily skin may crop up when a man takes testosterone, and there can be some mildly uncomfortable side effects, like fluid retention. There are also some physical side effects that can happen, such as enlargement of the breasts and decreased testicular size. Non-physical side effects can include an increase in aggression, as well as mood swings.
Risks of Testosterone Replacement Therapy
Your doctor may decide that testosterone replacement therapy is not a good option for you if you have any number of preexisting conditions, and this is because testosterone therapy can further aggravate certain conditions. For example, if you have sleep apnea, testosterone can cause sleep problems to worsen. Those with heart disease shouldn’t take testosterone because there can be an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. If you have certain types of cancer, like prostate or breast cancer, testosterone replacement therapy may not be a good choice for you. Testosterone therapy can stimulate prostate tissue, which can increase the risk of developing prostate cancer if you don’t already have it.
Should you consult with your doctor and decide that testosterone replacement therapy is what you want to do, it is wise to take some precautions. Your doctor will probably do a prostate cancer screening before prescribing testosterone, including a rectal exam and a PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) test, to be sure that your prostate is healthy. Any man who receives testosterone replacement therapy should make regular appointments to follow-up with their doctor, especially if you experience any negative side effects.