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Men's Health

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How Low Testosterone Affects Your Health

Dropping levels of this male hormone can cause more than sexual problems. It can also affect your mood, weight, and concentration.

Treating Low Testosterone continued...

Patches and gels are applied daily to the skin, and the testosterone is absorbed into the bloodstream. They're easy to use, but some men develop rashes, itching, and other skin irritations. Also, they have to be careful that their partners and children don't touch the gel. A nasal gel is now available that eliminates the risk of exposure to others.  

Buccal tablets are placed between the gums and upper lip -- like chewing tobacco (not that anyone should be chewing tobacco). These 12-hour tablets slowly release testosterone into the bloodstream, but they can be bitter-tasting as well as an irritant to your gums.

Subcutaneous (under the skin) implants are the latest treatment in the testosterone-boosting arsenal. Once these implants are in place, they work continuously for about six months. Sabanegh says that infections, bleeding, or bruising can occur at the insertion point, though rarely.

Potential Side Effects of Testosterone Treatments

Sabanegh steers patients with sleep apnea away from testosterone therapies since it may worsen the condition. He also discourages men who are trying to conceive a child with their partners. "In some men," says Sabanegh, "testosterone treatment will turn off the body's own testicular function -- both sperm production as well as testosterone production."

Use of testosterone replacement may increase a man's risk of blood clots. It also can accelerate age-related enlargement of the prostate, a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia. However, there is little evidence, according to Sabanegh, that testosterone treatments put men at higher risk of developing prostate cancer.

"We used to worry about prostate cancer, that testosterone treatment might accelerate its progress or onset, but that has not been borne out," he says.

Still, your doctor will likely want to keep a close watch on your prostate and monitor it for any suspicious changes for as long as you are taking testosterone. Other potential adverse effects of treatment can include acne and breast tenderness.

The Relationship Between Fat and Testosterone

Maintaining a normal testosterone level is not simply a matter of choosing and sticking with the right treatment. Getting and staying fit is also essential.

According to Sabanegh, fat speeds up the metabolizing of testosterone. The more fat you carry around, therefore, the faster you'll burn through the already-depleted hormone.

"Your general health makes a difference," Sabanegh says. In other words, if you want to get the most out of your treatment and your testosterone, exercising, eating right, and keeping your weight down must be a big part of the prescription.

Evans is doing just that. In addition to sticking with his testosterone patch, he plays golf every week, walks three miles a day, and works in his garden. He's also keeping active in the bedroom. That makes him a happy man. And he's not the only one who's happy.

"My sex life -- everything -- is good, and so is my wife. She's happy, too."

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Reviewed on December 02, 2012

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