Men all over the world suffer from hypogonadism, which is low serum testosterone. Another name for it is andropause. Around 39% of men around the globe over the age of 45 are affected, and there seems to be no discrimination in terms of social, economic or ethnic background. The figures increase as men become older.
Signs and Symptoms of Hypogonadism
There are various signs associated with andropause, not all of them sexual.
“Sexual symptoms include poor erectile function, low libido (desire for sex), weaker and fewer erections, and reduced sexual activity. Nonsexual symptoms include increased body fat, decreased energy and fatigue, reduced muscle mass, and depression.”
Interestingly, it seems to affect men with high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure even more. Furthermore, those with diabetes and those who are overweight are particularly susceptible to it. It is also known that those with HIV/AIDS are more likely to suffer from it, as well as previous or current opioid addictions.
In men, a number of symptoms are commonly associated with hypogonadism. These include muscle loss, loss of bodily hair, low sex drive, breast tissue growth, difficulty in concentrating, fatigue, erectile dysfunction, hot flashes and shrinking of the penis and testicles.
How to Determine Whether You Suffer from Andropause
If you believe you suffer from low testosterone, it is important to seek medical advice. The first thing a medical professional will do is determine whether your sexual development is as it should be. This is particularly important for those who are still very young. It is rare for young people to suffer from low testosterone, but not unheard of. If the medical professional deems there is indeed a case for andropause to be present, a number of tests will be ordered, in particular hormone tests.
“If your doctor suspects hypogonadism, the first round of testing will involve checking your sex hormone levels. You will need a blood test to check your level of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). The pituitary gland produces these reproductive hormones.”
Treatment for Low Testosterone
If you do suffer from low testosterone syndrome, you should get treatment. This is due to the fact that it can cause some long lasting effects, including permanent erectile dysfunction, infertility and osteoporosis. Hence, even men who are single or for other reasons do not wish to have a sexually active life should still seek treatment in order to avoid osteoporosis. Most of the time, treatment involves hormone replacement therapy. It is very important, however, that the right treatment is delivered for the right causes.
“Several testosterone delivery systems are currently available in the market. Clinical guidelines published in 2006, by the Endocrine Society, recommend reserving treatment for those patients with clinical symptoms, rather than for those with just low testosterone levels.”
One of the more common treatment options is the transdermal patch. These are like various other patches available on the market, in as such that they are applied to a hairless (or semi-hairless) area of the skin and left for 24 hours before being replaced. The problem with these, however, is that about 60% of users report skin irritation, which causes them to stop using it.
Another option is t-gel, which is a topical gel. These gels are generally well-received. However, several studies have recently taken place which have demonstrated that usage of the gel increases the chances of heart attacks and strokes. As a result, the FDA has had to issue an official warning to tell people that the products need to be tested again and should only be used by those who have medical conditions associated with low testosterone.
“Experts found in men younger than 65 with a history of heart disease and in older men even without history of the disease, heart attack risk doubled approximately 90 days after testosterone therapy was initiated. The study was conducted as a more in-depth investigation into a 2010 report stating a clinical trial of testosterone gel in men over the age of 65 was halted after researchers noted a substantial increase in heart attacks and other heart-related conditions.”
There are a number of other treatment options out there, including injections and tablets. However, more and more men – and even women, who can also suffer from low testosterone – are starting to look at ways to increase their testosterone production using natural levels. Since it is known that low t-levels are often caused by being overweight, a good first place to start would be to lose weight. Unfortunately, it is often hard to determine which came first: did someone become overweight because they had low testosterone, or did they develop low testosterone because they are overweight? Because of this blurring in the lines, it can be difficult to accurately address the problem. Indeed, losing weight when you have low testosterone is very difficult, and if it is starting to cause osteoporosis, it may actually cause further problems. This is why it is so important that there is a drive towards recognition of symptoms, but also towards prevention of hypogonadism in the first place.
“Prevention – Maintain normal body weight and healthy eating habits to prevent anorexia nervosa.”
Unfortunately, not all causes can be prevented, which is another reason why people should be very bodily aware. At the very least, this will mean that the problem is picked up sooner rather than later. Preventative medicine and holistic care is at the forefront of most actions undertaken by medical professionals nowadays. They are starting to understand that by the time treatment is needed, opportunities have already been missed. As has been shown with the options above, treatment can often cause different problems that may then require even further training.
Clearly, treatment depends greatly on the severity and the possible causes of hypogonadism. As such, the results of treatment will also vary greatly. Luckily, most of the time, treatment is very successful, restoring levels of testosterone at least to the level expected for the patient’s age. This does mean that someone whose levels start to drop naturally cannot expect to have t-levels like a 16 year old again