Shot in the Dark? A Look at Testosterone Injections
A Look at Testosterone Injections
Testosterone is a male hormone that means much more to men than just a healthy sex drive. The hormone affects several other factors in your health, including body fat, muscle mass, bone density, red blood cell count, and overall mood.
The Endocrine Society says that normal testosterone levels are between 300 and 1,000 ng/dL. If a blood test shows your levels are far below the norm, your doctor may recommend testosterone injections as a form of testosterone replacement therapy.
Low T Symptoms
Low testosterone (low T) is caused by a medical condition called androgen deficiency (AD). According to the Mayo Clinic, men naturally start losing one percent of testosterone per year when they hit their 30s. A more rapid decline in testosterone levels may indicate a problem with low T.
Common symptoms of low T include impotence or changes in sex drive, decreased sperm count, depression or anxiety, weight gain, or hot flashes. Some men may also experience penile and testicular size changes. Others may even have breast swelling.
The purpose of testosterone injections is to help regulate male hormone levels. This includes problems related to AD. Subsequently, you may experience improved vitality. For real problems with testosterone levels, these shots might improve your health and vitality. Among the potential benefits are an increased sex drive, improved symptoms of ED, more energy, and an increased sperm count.
The problem with a low T self-diagnosis is that many of the symptoms of low T are normal parts of aging. A physician-ordered blood test is the only way to find out whether your testosterone levels are abnormally low. If your doctor determines that you do have low testosterone, then he or she may recommend shots.
Fat and Muscle Changes
Men generally have less body fat than women. This is partially related to testosterone, which is responsible for regulating fat distribution and muscle maintenance. When your hormone levels are off, you’ll likely notice an increase in body fat, particularly around the stomach. Natural hormone levels also help regulate muscle growth. Testosterone shots can help regulate fat distribution, but you shouldn’t expect significant weight changes from hormone therapy alone.
The Mayo Clinic reports that testosterone therapy has been found to help increase muscle mass, but does not increase strength.
Sperm Count Changes
Low sperm count is a common side effect of low testosterone. Without healthy levels of testosterone, sperm production can slow to a standstill. This effect can prove difficult if you want to conceive. If low T is to blame for a lack of conception, then testosterone replacement therapy may offer hope. The effects don’t happen overnight. However, testosterone injections may help couples trying to conceive by increasing sperm counts over a period of time.
Cost is a major factor when considering testosterone injections. Sun Sentinel reports that the average price range is between $150 and $400 per month. The hefty price tag not only includes the therapy but monitoring as well. Your doctor will want to monitor your condition carefully to make sure the injections are working properly. Follow-ups can also check potential side effects. Some insurance companies cover portions of these costs, but you’ll want to check in advance. Injections are typically given every two weeks, according to the Endocrine Society.
Testosterone shots are increasingly advertised as the ultimate solution for many age-related health issues for men. Still, this doesn’t mean that these powerful injections are suitable for all patients. You should not use testosterone injections if you have:
- breast cancer
- heart disease
- a high red blood cell count (increasing this count can contribute to heart disease)
- sleep apnea
- prostate cancer
The National Institute on Aging says long-term testosterone therapy may also increase the risk for metastasis of preexisting prostate tumors. It may also increase the risk for heart disease in older men.
Diagnosing Low T
To determine if testosterone shots are right for you, a doctor will conduct a thorough health history as well as a physical exam. Then lab work is ordered to measure testosterone levels in your blood. The Endocrine Society recommends getting blood work done in the mornings when testosterone counts are most accurate. You’ll also likely be ordered to take a test that measures red blood cells. This is done in order to make sure you aren’t in danger of increasing the amount of cells to abnormally dangerous levels.
Testosterone injections are beneficial, but only if you actually suffer from a medical condition that causes low T. Unfortunately, there is an increased prevalence of pop-up clinics that encourage all men to take testosterone shots. Don’t fall for this scam—not only are these clinics expensive, but taking testosterone won’t help if you don’t actually have low T. Better nutrition, regular exercise, and refraining from smoking can all help you feel better at any age, whether you’re being treated for low T or not.
- Can We Prevent Aging? (2013, June 26). National Institute on Aging. Retrieved September 2, 2013, from http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/can-we-prevent-aging
- Testosterone Shots Help Men Regain Vitality. (2011, October 6). Sun Sentinel. Retrieved September 4, 2013, from http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2011-10-06/health/fl-hk-testosterone-clinics-20111006_1_testosterone-injections-hormone-supplements-sperm-production
- Testosterone Therapy in Men with Androgen Deficiency Syndromes (2010, June). The Endocrine Society. Retrieved September 2, 2013, from http://www.hormone.org/sitecore%20modules/web/~/media/Hormone/Files/Patient%20Guides/Mens%20Health/PGAndrogensMen%20523.pdf
- Testosterone Therapy: Key to Male Vitality? (2012, April 10). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved September 2, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/testosterone-therapy/MC00030