Could Low T Be Affecting Your Relationship?
SIOUX FALLS (Dec. 1, 2013) – Even if you don’t suffer from low T physically, you might be suffering from its impact upon your relationship with your spouse or significant other.
Low T refers to abnormally low levels of testosterone, the major male sex hormone which is responsible for maintaining fertility and sexual function, as well as development of bone and muscle mass in men. Levels peak in the 20s and 30s, and gradually decline with age. About 10 percent of men age 40 have low T, and the percentage climbs to 30 percent of men in their 70s and 50 percent of men over age 80.
Dr. Richard Crawford, endocrinologist with Avera Medical Group Endocrinology & Diabetes Sioux Falls, says low T is gaining national attention. “Much of this has to do with the fact that the public is more open to discussing topics such as erectile dysfunction. And, the desire among the Baby Boomer generation to maintain health and vigor has been a driving factor.” TV ads for low T medications also have piqued interest, he added.
“One study estimates there has been a 500 percent increase in prescription sales for T replacement since 1993,” Dr. Crawford said. Even with this increased awareness, only about 5 percent of men are currently being treated for low T.
Key symptoms of low T include weakness, diminished vitality, feeling depressed, low libido and erectile dysfunction. Low T also can reduce fertility, and cause low bone and muscle mass that leads to anemia. Sometimes, these symptoms are attributed to the aging process, and go on ignored and untreated. “While sexual desire does lessen gradually with age, a loss of interest in sex could also be due to a medical problem such as low testosterone,” Dr. Crawford said.
Women also have testosterone – in smaller amounts. In women, low T can cause decreased sex drive. Too much testosterone can cause a woman to develop male features, such as excessive facial and body hair or a deep voice, as well as irregular menstrual periods. High testosterone is also linked to female infertility and polycystic ovary syndrome.
These symptoms may or may not stem from abnormal T levels. The only way to know for sure is to request a testosterone blood test at your next clinic visit. Normal testosterone levels may vary from lab to lab, but usually fall within a range of 300 to 1,200 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL).
If low T is confirmed, it can be treated with injections, patches or gels. In men, testosterone pills are not recommended as this form can lead to liver damage. “For men who take T replacement medications, we hope to see benefits such as more energy and strength, greater libido, improved sexual function and better muscle mass,” Dr. Crawford said.
There are risks of T replacement to be aware of, such as worsening sleep apnea, increased acne, the development of male breast tissue, known as gynecomastia, and thickening of the blood in a condition known as erythrocytosis. An increased prostate size might worsen urinary symptoms. The future development of prostate cancer is also a concern, although no link between T replacement and prostate cancer has been established. “Careful monitoring with PSA tests and a prostate exam are recommended,” Dr. Crawford said.
For men who are prescribed T replacement, there are cautions for women and children living in the same household. Accidental exposure can cause signs of puberty to appear in a child, or a change in body hair or increased acne in women.
“Before taking T replacements, patients should know what they might expect in terms of benefits, what medical monitoring they will need, the different forms of therapy, and the advantages and drawbacks of each treatment option,” Dr. Crawford added.