Since 2000, the number of American men taking testosterone replacement therapy has quadrupled. More than 5 million prescriptions were written for testosterone therapy in 2011 alone.
Men experience a decline in natural testosterone production as they age. This can cause less than desirable health effects such as declining sex drive, erectile dysfunction, decreased bone density, lower muscle mass and fatigue and depression. Because of this, more and more men are turning to prescription low T treatments to ease the symptoms.
Some experts are beginning to worry about the extent to which testosterone treatments are prescribed. Many believe there is a failure to get adequate testing from certified medical experts in the area of hormone therapy. This can create a dangerous path for men taking low T treatments who might not necessarily need them or be properly monitored while taking the prescription.
How Doctors Diagnose Patients with Low Testosterone
When a patient gets tested for low testosterone levels, they will generally have a morning office visit because this is the time of day testosterone levels are highest. A blood test is performed. The doctor may also use hormone or genetic testing to check for low testosterone levels.
Some health experts believe more should be done to prevent unnecessary testosterone use. They recommend that doctors perform a physical exam in addition to blood and hormone testing to check for physical symptoms of low testosterone.
“A mildly low level of testosterone alone, without any signs or symptoms, typically does not require treatment,” said Dr. Todd Nippoldt, of the Mayo Clinic in a Chicago Tribune article. “Follow-up tests and exams can usually show if a medical condition may be contributing to low testosterone. If an underlying medical condition is identified, treatment for that disorder may be all you need to bring your testosterone level back into the normal range.”
Patients should be aware of the recent link between testosterone replacement therapy and risk of heart problems and stroke. Several studies have linked low T treatments to increased risk of stroke, heart attack and death among men. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently investigating this link.