Do You Need Treatment for Low Testosterone?

Experts say testosterone replacement poses health risks and that safer — and far cheaper — solutions may be available.

Do You Need Treatment for Low Testosterone? Photo (cc) by Jayel Aheram

Drug companies that make testosterone have pumped more than $121 million into advertising in the past two years, but medical experts aren’t sure their products are an overall benefit for men.

The bad seems to outweigh the good, Consumer Reports says:

Risks include breast enlargement, reduced fertility, heart attacks, and possibly faster-growing prostate cancer. Women accidentally exposed to the hormone can develop male characteristics, and children can enter an early puberty. And the drugs can be expensive — up to $570 a month.

Additional established risks include blood clots in the legs, sleep apnea, and swollen feet or ankles.

Ad spending for the drugs went from $14.3 million in 2011 to $107.3 million, CR says, which paid off handsomely: Sales climbed from about $1.25 billion in 2010 to about $2.25 billion last year. The number of prescriptions rose about 2 million in the same period, CR added.

“Testosterone replacement has been shown to improve a man’s energy, libido, muscle mass, sleep, erections, energy level, and depressed mood,” the American Urological Association says. “It is important to realize that testosterone treatment is considered lifelong therapy.”

Lifelong means spending as much as $7,000 a year for a drug that may pose ongoing risks for you and your family.

There are many possible causes for low testosterone, including stress, lack of sleep or exercise, certain drugs, plus conditions such as diabetes, obesity and pituitary tumors, CR says.

Unless your physician has diagnosed you with hypogonadism and said otherwise, a healthier lifestyle could go a long way toward resolving the symptoms associated with low testosterone.

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