Health care has grown more and more impersonal over the last few decades. There is a continued movement toward specialized medical providers, with doctors who work just for the clinic or hospital to which you were referred. Technicians and nurses zip into the room with you, fulfill their orders and quickly leave with the scientifically gathered information you might or might not get to see. HIPAA rules at least allow you to limit the spread of your data, though your access and your decisions about the results of your medical tests are controlled by the internal processes of the particular health system that chooses and administers your tests. Fortunately, the number of self-administered health tests is also growing dramatically. Along with the use of self-tests, you gain a much greater ability to make wise health care decisions for yourself.
Your Testosterone Level
Just as television and the internet are littered with commercials promoting certain prescription medications, so there are many advertisements for over-the-counter “patent medicines.” Some of these promote enhanced memory, improved joint health or allergy relief. You may also have seen some of the commercials addressing “low T,” concerning mature men’s inability to produce adequate amounts of the hormone testosterone. Often these advertisements feature well-known retired professional athletes who boast about patent medicines they have been taking that helped them recover multiple aspects of their male virility they had lost due to lack of sufficient testosterone. Notably, these ads do not advise men watching to have their testosterone levels checked. Today, self-testing for testosterone deficiency is a simple, important procedure that eliminates the guesswork. If you think you might have a deficient level of this hormone, it is important to verify that with a test. There are other significant health issues that might result in the loss of virility. You might not be aware of other problems if “low T” turns out not to be the real concern.
Symptoms of Low Testosterone
The scientific name for an inadequate level of this hormone is androgen deficiency or hypoandrogenism. In men, this condition is characterized by a number of specific symptoms:
- Lessened growth of body and facial hair
- Diminished muscle mass
- Lessened sex drive and impotence
- Hot flashes
- Neurological issues such as headaches, depression and anxiety
- Decrease in penis and testicle size
- Loss of bone density
It is important to know that hypoandrogenism can also affect women. Many of the same symptoms—such as palpations, cranial pain, bone density loss, sleeplessness, neurological conditions, hair loss and decreased musculature—impact women in the same way. Females may also experience swelling of vaginal tissues and vascular conditions. What causes this condition to arise? Although TV commercials may suggest it is a normal part of the aging process, there may be other factors involved in decreased testosterone production by the body. Some injuries and illnesses result in lowered hormone manufacturing. Physical conditions, like obesity or diabetes, are also linked to lessened testosterone.
Benefits of Testosterone Replacement
The notion of hormone replacement first became a common topic with advances in treating the symptoms of menopause. For this reason, many people consider hormone replacement to apply solely to women. In reality, both women and men have a number of different hormone levels that can be tested, regulated and enhanced when needed. Both women and men produce—and require—certain levels of testosterone and estrogen. The level of a given hormone in the bloodstream can be impacted and regulated by factors other than simply applying replacement hormones. When a low level of testosterone is diagnosed, however, replacing it and bringing it up to a normal level produces a number of benefits. The immediate physical improvements include enhanced sexual desire and ability to perform. The neurological pluses are lessened depression, improved memory, logical performance and spatial judgment. Long-term improvements resulting from testosterone replacement therapy include decreased fat, increased lean muscle, heightened bone density and better cardiovascular health.
Testosterone Replacement Options
First, note that there are some drug-free manners in which testosterone levels can be positively impacted. These include engaging in exercise programs, getting a good night’s sleep, adjusting your diet, getting plenty of sunshine and minimizing stress. Beyond these natural changes, there are several ways to bring your testosterone level to a suitable range. Unfortunately, taking the over-the-counter drugs so heavily advertised on TV is probably not going to produce the desired hormonal change. These supplements are administered orally. When pills travel through the intestinal system, testosterone is one of the chemicals easily eradicated by the gut and liver. If this hormone is going to be administered to the body, ideally it should come from the bloodstream. The two primary methods of successfully increasing testosterone are through regular injections or through the implantation of a time-release tablet. The tablets are usually placed above the buttocks and absorbed over several months. The injections are administered weekly, and you can give them to yourself.