Many men mistakenly assume testosterone is nothing more than a hormone related to sexual activity.
In reality, testosterone directly affects nearly every aspect of a man’s life, including their mind and body in addition to their sexual function.
Testosterone therapy, also known as testosterone replacement therapy, is designed to help men whose bodies don’t produce normal levels of the hormone. It boosts testosterone levels to minimize the negative effects of low testosterone.
Of course, testosterone therapy isn’t perfect. While it’s very beneficial to many men, it also comes with some potential health risks and side effects.
We explore the risks and benefits of testosterone therapy, as well as using natural supplements as alternatives, in greater detail below.
Our goal is to help you decide whether testosterone therapy or natural supplements is right for you.
When Testosterone Replacement Therapy is Justified
According to The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, approximately 4 to 5 million American men struggle with low testosterone.
Low testosterone affects men of all ages, but it’s much more common in aging men. Levels of testosterone start to naturally decline after the age of 30. The effects become most noticeable after 60 years of age.
In addition to this natural and progressive decline as men age, low testosterone can also be caused by a variety of health conditions.
These health conditions can cause low testosterone in men well under 60. Some people are even affected before they go through puberty.
The most common health conditions that cause low testosterone are hypogonadism and andropause. Both conditions are commonly treated with testosterone replacement therapy.
Hypogonadism is the most common cause of low testosterone in young men. The condition is caused by underactive testes that fail to produce sufficient levels of testosterone.
Testosterone therapy is justified, on a case-by-case basis, for younger men struggling with the negative effects of hypogonadism.
Testosterone replacement therapy is usually recommended for men with less than 300 ng/dl of testosterone in blood and all low T symptoms.
Andropause, also known as “male menopause,” is another common cause of low testosterone levels. Unlike hypogonadism, it’s less of a health condition and more of a natural byproduct of aging.
Men over 50 often experience a drop in testosterone levels due to andropause. Testosterone therapy can be an effective treatment for men with the condition.
Different Types of Testosterone Replacement Therapy
Men that are a good fit for testosterone replacement therapy are able to choose from a variety of different types.
The most common forms of testosterone therapy include:
Skin Patch – A medicated patch containing testosterone is worn on the arm, back, stomach, or thighs. The skin absorbs the testosterone, distributing it into the bloodstream. Applied once daily.
Mouth Patch – A medicated tablet-shaped patch containing testosterone is attached to the gums above the incisors. Testosterone is continually released into the bloodstream through the oral tissues. Applied twice daily.
Gel – A medicated gel containing testosterone is applied directly to the skin. The skin absorbs the testosterone into the bloodstream. Several varieties are available. The prescribed amount is distributed through a pump. Applied once daily.
Injection – Testosterone is injected directly into the muscles for your body to absorb it into the bloodstream. Receive injections every two to four weeks. Usually injected by a doctor but sometimes self-injection is allowed.
Implant – Pellets containing testosterone are implanted into the soft tissues of the body, usually near your hip. They steadily release testosterone over a period of three to six months.
Though patches, gels, injections, and implants are the most common forms of testosterone replacement therapy, a pill-form is also available.
However, oral testosterone pills are infrequently prescribed by doctors. The main reason is that there is evidence these oral pills can damage the liver.
Patches, gels, injections, and implants don’t affect the liver since the testosterone they contain is absorbed directly into the bloodstream.
Talk to your doctor about the right treatment for you. A blood test is used to check your testosterone level to help you find the best treatment.
Risks of Testosterone Therapy
Testosterone therapy is very popular, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely safe.
There are a handful of legitimate risks you must take into consideration when deciding if it’s right for you.
The biggest risk of testosterone replacement therapy is stroke. Traditional forms, including patches, gels, and injections/implants, raise a risk of blood clots and stroke.
Additional, but less common, risks of testosterone therapy include sleep apnea, acne, and male breast enlargement.
It’s important to remember that all of the negative side effects of testosterone therapy go away once treatment is halted. There are also a number of things men can do, such as donating blood on a regular basis, that help offset some of the side effects while the therapy is in use.
In addition to the risks that testosterone replacement therapy poses in general, each specific form of treatment has its own risks.
For instance, the gel used for testosterone therapy can cause serious side effects if it comes into contact with women, children, or pets. Notable among them are excessive hair growth. Premature puberty is another potential risk for children that come into contact with the gel.
For this reason, men using the testosterone gel must make sure to wash their hands thoroughly after using it. It’s also essential that no one else touches the spot where the medication was applied.
New research has also hinted towards a link between testosterone replacement therapy and prostate cancer.
Despite the potential negative effects of testosterone therapy, most experts still recommend it for the majority of men with low testosterone.
Using treatment methods safely, applying them as prescribed, and taking other precautions greatly limits the potential risks of testosterone therapy methods.
Benefits of Testosterone Therapy
Testosterone replacement therapy can minimize or even reverse the negative effects of low testosterone.
If you’re experiencing the common symptoms of low testosterone, especially if you’re an older male, it’s very important to see your doctor to test your testosterone levels.
Most commonly testosterone therapy is recommended for men experiencing low levels of testosterone because of a health condition like hypogonadism. Traditional therapy isn’t often recommended for men with low levels of testosterone due to aging.
So what benefits can you expect if you qualify for testosterone therapy?
Chief among them is a renewal in sex drive and interest in sex. Testosterone therapy also improves energy levels during sex and leads directly to longer-lasting and higher-quality erections.
Yet testosterone therapy has benefits in addition to improving sexual function. It can help improve physical health by increasing bone density and muscle mass. It has even been shown to increase insulin sensitivity in some men.
Mental improvements are another common benefit of testosterone therapy. Men report an improvement in overall mood after treatment has been started.
Though specific mood benefits are largely dependent upon the individual, most of those that receive testosterone replacement therapy notice a positive improvement in their mood. A smaller percentage, around 10%, report feeling ecstatic after therapy has begun.
Most men also report an improvement in overall quality of life after increasing low testosterone levels with testosterone therapy.
Research has also recently discovered a potential link between testosterone and life expectancy. Men with low levels are reported to have a shorter life expectancy. Testosterone therapy can potentially make earlier death less likely.
It’s important to note that research into testosterone therapy is in its beginning stages. While the short-term benefits are relatively well understood, the long-term benefits still need to be researched more extensively.
Natural Supplements as an Alternative
Despite what you may hear, testosterone replacement therapy isn’t the be-all and end-all for increasing male testosterone levels.
Natural supplements are rapidly gaining popularity as an alternative for men with low testosterone levels. These supplements offer many of the same benefits as testosterone therapy while greatly minimizing the potential risks.
Also known as a testosterone booster, these natural supplements contain a combination of scientifically-proven ingredients that boost testosterone.
Unlike traditional testosterone therapy, a natural supplement actually helps your body produce more testosterone on its own. They work just as well for aging men as they do for those with health conditions like hypogonadism.
Natural supplements increase sex drive and sexual function, help you gain muscle and lose fat, and improve your overall mood.
For the best results, pair a natural testosterone supplement with lifestyle changes. Small lifestyle changes like more exercise, a healthier diet, plenty of sleep, and reducing stress all help boost testosterone levels naturally.
Despite its many benefits, testosterone replacement therapy isn’t for everyone. It has a long list of side effects and other potential risks that need to be taken into consideration.
A good alternative is a natural supplement. A supplement provides a testosterone boost in a completely natural way, encouraging the body to increase testosterone production on its own.
Consider the pros and cons of testosterone therapy, versus natural supplements as an alternative, to decide which option is best for you and your body.