Better in Bed? What You Need to Know About Testosterone Therapy

Testosterone is a hormone that amps up sex drive, sperm production, bone density, and muscle mass. Many men worry about declining sex drive as they age—and for good reason. The Mayo Clinic reports that testosterone levels peak in early adulthood and drop about one percent each year after age 30 (Mayo Clinic, 2012).

Not all experts agree on the effectiveness of testosterone supplements. Wondering if using testosterone therapy can help you stay vital and vigorous as you get older? Click through the slideshow to learn more about the possible pros and cons.

Looking to improve your sex drive? Find out the signs of low T and how you can increase your testosterone »

What the Experts Say

Before you run down to the drugstore to stock up on testosterone supplements, it’s important to understand what health experts recommend. According to the Mayo Clinic, testosterone therapy may help nip a condition called hypogonadism in the bud. This condition occurs when your body can’t produce enough testosterone on its own.

However, it’s unclear whether supplements can help men who don’t have this condition. The Cleveland Clinic reports that currently, there are no pills, over-the-counter or prescription, on the U.S. market that provide sufficient testosterone for men who are deficient in it (Cleveland Clinic, 2009).

Can Supplements Really Lift Libido?

It’s natural to want to find a quick fix to rev up your sex drive. Just be aware that research on the effectiveness of testosterone has been inconclusive. The Mayo Clinic notes that there haven’t been many scientifically rigorous studies to prove that supplements work in men who already have healthy levels of testosterone. The smaller studies that have been conducted have drawn mixed results (Mayo Clinic, 2012).

Normal Levels? Testosterone Therapy Not Warranted

Wondering whether supplements are right for you? In a review of studies published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers found that sexual functioning often remained unchanged in healthy older men with only slightly decreased testosterone levels who tried testosterone replacement. The verdict? The study authors don’t recommend supplements for older men with normal or low to normal testosterone levels (J Am Geriatr Soc, 2003).

When to Consider Testosterone Supplements

If you have clinically low testosterone levels or have been diagnosed by your doctor with hypogonadism, testosterone therapy may give you a boost in bed. In a few studies, researchers found that men with markedly decreased testosterone levels saw improvements in their libido and erectile function compared with those who had low to normal levels (J Am Geriatr Soc, 2003). Talk to your doctor before deciding if taking testosterone supplements is the right move for you.

Links to Cardiovascular and Kidney Disease

Studies have suggested a connection between testosterone supplements and heart and kidney problems. Researchers reported in the American Journal of Physiology - Renal Physiology that testosterone supplements may impact your risk for developing cardiovascular-renal disease. Study authors point out that despite the steadily increasing use of testosterone supplements, scientists have yet to determine whether testosterone therapy might increase your risk for heart and kidney disease (Am J Physiol Renal Physiol, 2005).

Review the Risks

Like other supplements and medication, testosterone therapy comes with risks and possible side effects. This is particularly true if you try to take it for normal aging rather than for a true problem (Mayo Clinic, 2012). In addition to the effects that these supplements may have on your heart and kidneys, the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society states: “the long-term safety and efficacy of testosterone supplementation remain uncertain” (J Am Geriatr Soc, 2003).

Both the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic note that testosterone therapy can lead to a number of potential troubles—none of which are sexy. Complications include sleep apnea, acne, enlarged breasts, and testicle shrinkage (Cleveland Clinic, 2009) (Mayo Clinic, 2012). If in doubt, find out: ask your doctor about the risks and benefits of different supplements.

Talk About It

If you’re wondering whether to try testosterone supplements to lift your libido, talk to your doctor first. According to the Mayo Clinic, you shouldn’t take testosterone supplements to try to fight the normal aging process (Mayo Clinic, 2012). Although it’s never easy to raise concerns about your sex drive, your doctor can help determine if your “drive drop” is an expected part of aging, or due to an unusual decline in testosterone.