At my clinic at Rush University Medical Center, I see more and more men with complaints of lack of energy, diminished sex drive and easy fatigability. This may be a treatable problem caused by suboptimal production of the primary male hormone known as testosterone, which is an important chemical in the health of every man.
Most men think of testosterone as the sex hormone, but in fact it appears to have greater importance in terms of general health, including preservation of muscle mass and bone mineral density, mood and brain function, bone marrow, liver and kidney function as well. Clearly, there is also an important sexual component to testosterone, which supports a man’s libido, and is necessary for satisfactory erectile function as well.
The most common presenting symptoms of low testosterone are loss of energy, easy fatigability, a depressed mood, sleepiness, diminished libido and erectile dysfunction. Recent studies have demonstrated that up to 40 percent of men over the age of 45 have low testosterone. The men who are at highest risk to have low testosterone and can benefit from replacement therapy include men with diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, and those who require chronic pain medication.
All men with the symptoms noted above or medical problems should undergo evaluation by their primary care physician or urologist with a simple morning blood test. If the testosterone blood test is abnormal and these symptoms exist, testosterone replacement can be offered in a variety of ways, including topical gels or two types of injections.
Although testosterone was previously considered a drug which may affect a man’s prostate in an adverse way, considerable research has now demonstrated very little risk of developing prostate cancer or urinary problems as a result of an enlarging prostate following prolonged treatment with testosterone. Virtually all insurance companies will cover treatment of men with low testosterone, with a high likelihood of bringing the testosterone level to the normal range and reversing many if not all the symptoms.
Should you be experiencing any of these symptoms or have concerns about your male hormone level, see your primary care physician or contact Laurence Levine, MD, professor of urology, at Rush University Medical Center. Call (312) 563-5000 to schedule a consultation.