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More men taking testosterone, but why?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Testosterone use has escalated in the U.S. without evidence that most men need the hormone.

Researchers are concerned about men taking testosterone even though they don't need it. The male hormone can carry risks, making it important for clinicians to pay attention to guidelines for prescribing testosterone therapy to men. For men, it may mean the notion of "low T" is nothing but a scam.

The finding, published in the the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, found many men take testosterone despite having normal hormone levels and no clear indication that they need therapy.

Symptoms of low testosterone

Inadequate levels of testosterone can lead to decreased sex drive, decreased sperm production and poor bone health because of its complex link to vitamin D. Inadequate testosterone has also been linked to heart disease in men.

The male hormone declines with age, but past evidence suggests healthy older men don't experience lower testosterone levels.

"Over the past decade, older and middle-aged men are increasingly being tested for low testosterone levels and being prescribed testosterone medications, particularly in the United States," said one of the study's authors, J. Bradley Layton, PhD, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in a press release.

Internet and television ads promote the need for replacing the hormone for any man with low energy, decreased sex drive and more that can stem from a variety of other problems including diabetes, obesity.

Who needs testosterone?

According to "Australian Doctor", testosterone prescriptions have skyrocketed, leading to a multi-million dollar business that includes "off-label prescribing" in a study of 41 countries - which means men are wasting their money and may even be doing themselves harm.

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Clinical guidelines for prescribing male hormone gels or injections are for a condition known as hypogonadism that happens when the male (or even female) sex glands produce little or no testosterone.

Some medicines, surgery, cancer, trauma, kidney disease and infections as well as genetic predisposition causes hypogonadism. The need for testosterone therapy is diagnosed with a blood test and perhaps a sperm count.

Testosterone replacement side effects include liver toxicity, fluid retention and breast tissue growth that can be concerning and unsightly for men. Younger men could also be thwarting their chances of starting a family by taking testosterone that can interfere with, rather than enhancing fertility.

The newest study

For the new study, researchers found the number of men who initiated testosterone therapy since 2000 has almost quadrupled in the US. In contrast, the number of men taking the hormone increased by one-third in the UK.

The study authors found the majority of men never had their testosterone levels tested before started treatment, nor did they have any recent testing.

If you are one of those men who have bought into the hype of having "low T" because of symptoms of low sex drive, no energy, poor work performance and more, talk to a Endocrinologist who specializes in hormone replacement therapy, but only after you get a good physical from your doctor and discuss the need for a referral to a specialist.

The newest finding supports previous studies showing men may be getting scammed by believing testosterone is the answer to their health problems. The number of men taking testosterone that don't even need it has increased significantly in the past decade; especially in the United States. The study authors suggest prescribers "...consider the medical necessity of testosterone prior to initiation."

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Wikimedia Commons

Updated January 30, 2014