Every day, millions of men in America are using prescription testosterone replacement in order to restore the normal levels of testosterone in their bodies. Pharmaceutical marketing is promising that these replacement therapies will make them feel more energetic and alert, increase their sexual functioning, and to help them feel more mentally sharp. However, there are still some very legitimate safety concerns regarding these therapies. In fact, in November 2013, it was revealed that older men face higher cardiac risks, making people wonder if testosterone therapy is safe.
Due to the marketing of these pharmaceutical companies, men have been flooded with lots of information regarding the benefits of these drugs, but have not been educated on the potential risks.
Prevalence of Low Testosterone Syndrome
There is a loophole in Food and Drug Administration regulations that allows the pharmaceutical companies to urge men to speak with their physicians if they have certain “possible signs” of a deficiency of testosterone. Due to the direct to consumer marketing, men who would have never asked about this before are asking their physicians because they saw an ad on television that said “Are you tired?”
However, just being tired doesn’t mean that you’ll get a prescription for testosterone. In fact, being tired is pretty far down the list with most physicians. In order to get a prescription for testosterone replacement, you will have to have significant symptoms as well as lab testing to find out whether or not you have this disorder.
When men do get started on testosterone therapy, it is true that they do feel better after some time, but then it’s very difficult when they come off of it. They can feel a big difference because their body does not produce testosterone naturally when on the treatment- when they come off, their body hasn’t yet recovered. This is one of the reasons that it is debated whether or not testosterone therapy is safe.
How safe is Testosterone Therapy?
A very small percentage of men will experience immediate side effects of supplementation of testosterone. Some of these immediate effects include: acne, swelling or tenderness of breasts, swelling of the ankles, and disturbances in breathing while sleeping. Additionally, physicians warn that you should have bloodwork to monitor high blood cell counts, as this could increase your risk of developing a clot. Obviously, these shouldn’t make a difference as to whether or not testosterone therapy is safe.
Evidence for the long-term risks is mixed. In some studies, men on testosterone therapies seem to have fewer cardiovascular issues, while other studies show a much higher cardiac risk. Additionally, some physicians are concerned that testosterone therapy can possibly stimulate the growth of prostate cancer. However, once again, the evidence is mixed. Still, since prostate cancer is such a common condition, physicians are not likely to prescribe it to men who could be at risk.
Basically, for now, the long-term risks of low testosterone therapy are considered to be “known unknowns.” Men who feel lousy have a chance to feel better. However, this quick fix could take the attention away from the unknown long-term hazards. So, when you consider talking with your physician regarding testosterone therapy, you should keep the potential risks in mind and determine whether or not testosterone therapy is safe for you and your needs.