Testosterone therapy is a means of replacing the male sex hormone, testosterone, that naturally declines with age. Beginning at around age 30, a man's testosterone level declines at a rate of about one percent each year. If testosterone levels decrease at a rapid rate, or if a man begins to experience symptoms associated with decreased testosterone, his physician may recommend testosterone therapy.
Increasing hormone levels through testosterone therapy may be achieved by various means. Medical experts at the Cleveland Clinic report that all methods of testosterone therapy have both pros and cons of use, and men are encouraged to choose their method of testosterone replacement carefully. The most commonly prescribed forms of testosterone therapy include testosterone injections, transdermal skin patches, and testosterone gels.
Testosterone shots much be given every two weeks and are given as an intramuscular injection. Many men who use testosterone injections are instructed how to give the injections at home, but for those who are uncomfortable self-injecting, a doctor or nurse can give the injection. Men who are suffering symptoms of low testosterone (erectile dysfunction, decreased concentration, fatigue, loss of sex drive, etc) may find that their symptoms are greatly decreased in the days following the injection, but symptoms return before time for the next injection.
Testosterone therapy via skin patch is a more attractive option to some men with decreased hormone levels. A transdermal patch is applied to clean skin each day and replaced 24 hours later. Common application sites include the back, abdomen, upper arms, or thigh. Skin reactions at the site of the patch are a potential risk.
Some men prefer to use testosterone gels to increase their hormone levels. The gel is applied daily to the skin on the lower abdomen, upper arms, or shoulders. As the gel dries, testosterone is absorbed into the skin. While testosterone gels are known to cause fewer skin reactions than transdermal patches, men are advised to refrain from showering or bathing until the gel has dried. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a black box warning to testosterone gels warning that women and children avoid contact with the gel as the medication will be transferred and absorbed by anyone touching the wet gel.
For men who suffer from decreased testosterone, testosterone therapy can help to restore their hormone levels to a natural level. However, men with prostate or breast cancer should not use testosterone therapy. Many physicians will recommend that men undergo a thorough prostate cancer screening, including a rectal exam and PSA test before prescribing testosterone therapy.
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