For every male, testosterone is the lifeblood that fuels many of the essential physical traits and biological functions that allow them to live comfortably. The well-known androgen hormone is one of the most important sex hormones in the male endocrine system as it is primarily responsible for a man’s cognitive thinking, weight distribution, sexual function, mood, muscle mass, and even bone density.
>But although testosterone helps to regulate and maintain those important physical characteristics, there are instances when it may cause distress to the body. Certain factors such as hormone imbalances or even the natural physiological transition that occurs during aging can cause testosterone levels to fluctuate or significantly decrease, leading men to experience various health complications.
To offset the symptoms of testosterone deficiency or low testosterone, more adult men are utilizing testosterone treatments typically administered through hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to help elevate their testosterone levels to the normal parameters for their age. However, although taking testosterone can help to boost your T levels, there are several side effects and potential downsides associated with TRT that you may want to learn more about so you know what to expect before starting a treatment plan.
Today, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of taking testosterone during TRT, so you can make a more informed decision as to whether or not testosterone replacement therapy may be a good treatment option for you.
Pros of Testosterone Treatments
Although your testosterone levels may be low, your body’s testosterone receptors will usually remain active, which means they can still receive testosterone. With TRT, testosterone receptors will utilize the androgen hormone medication used in testosterone treatments to perform the same functions of the diminished testosterone hormone that your body will normally produce. When administered and monitored properly with the assistance of trained specialists, testosterone treatments can provide several significant benefits, including:
Increased Muscle Mass and Strength
Testosterone plays a vital role in developing a man’s muscle growth and strength. However, when testosterone levels decline, it can potentially lead to decreased muscle tissue, which can cause you to experience muscle weakness. By using testosterone supplementation to feed the body with additional testosterone hormone, testosterone treatments can reduce fat mass and stimulate muscle growth, which can lead to an increase in muscle mass.
Stronger Bone Density
The testosterone hormone is very important for bone density as it directly acts on the osteoblasts or bone cells required for bone formation. It can also indirectly affect bone metabolism by stimulating and increasing the activity of cytokines–small proteins that are crucial in sending signals that prompt the growth and activity of other cells in the body–which can help regulate and maintain consistent bone growth. However, when your testosterone levels are low, the deficiency can cause men to lose bone density, making them more vulnerable to bone-related issues such as bone fractures and osteoporosis. Research suggests that testosterone treatments used in TRT can help increase bone mineral density, especially in older men with decreased serum testosterone levels.
Enhanced Sexual function and Libido
One of the testosterone hormone’s primary functions is to promote and maintain sexual function, which includes your sex drive and performance. The hormone is also responsible for regulating the erectile process that is activated by sexual desire, allowing men to achieve an erection when they are stimulated by sexual intercourse. Naturally, when your testosterone declines, it can significantly reduce your interest in sexual activity, causing low libido that can also lead to decreased sexual performance and even erectile dysfunction. Using testosterone treatments to elevate testosterone levels can increase sexual desire and improve blood flow to the penis to promote stronger and longer-lasting erections, thus, enhancing sexual performance, and leading to more frequent sexual activity.
Improved Mood and Cognitive Function
Many studies reveal testosterone has a major impact on the central nervous system by regulating the signals sent to the brain that are responsible for maintaining spatial cognition, thinking, memory retention, and behavior. So, of course, when your testosterone levels are low, the deficiency can cause chemical imbalances in the brain that may lead to impaired cognitive function and sudden mood disorders such as irritability, anxiety, and depression. However, research shows that testosterone treatment in men with low testosterone can have positive neuroprotective effects that help improve cognitive processing, which can aid in reducing feelings of anxiety and irritability, consequently, improving your overall mood.
Protection Against Cardiovascular Disease
Typically, the testosterone hormone helps to maintain healthy red blood cell production, which keeps the body protected from adverse cardiovascular complications such as heart disease. However, when testosterone levels decline, the body loses that natural protection, leaving it more susceptible to certain cardiovascular issues such as coronary atherosclerosis and potential heart failure. Conversely, testosterone treatments administered through TRT can help widen coronary arteries, which produces an increase in blood flow and boosts heart muscle contractions, thus, improving your overall cardiometabolic function and reducing the risk of potential cardiovascular complications. TRT may also lower LDL cholesterol, which has also been shown to help lessen the chances of developing adverse cardiovascular events.
Improved Insulin Sensitivity
Testosterone helps to regulate various factors associated with body composition, including metabolism and weight distribution. These two factors are especially affected by how the body releases insulin in response to the amount of glucose received from food consumption. When T levels are low, it can lead to an accumulation of body fat that decreases the body’s insulin response to glucose, causing insulin resistance which eventually leads to Type 2 diabetes. According to a study published by the National Institute of Health, testosterone replacement therapy can improve insulin sensitivity and glycemic control, which can also help reduce the risk of developing excess weight gain that leads to obesity and diabetes.
Cons of TRT
Despite TRT’s many benefits, there are also several risks and side effects that are associated with taking testosterone treatments, including:
Risk of Prostate Cancer
The potential effects of testosterone replacement therapy on prostate cancer are still up for debate. Some studies suggest that increased testosterone levels achieved from TRT may stimulate malignant growth in the prostate, which can lead to an increased risk for prostate cancer. So far, this has not been proven accurate for every male on TRT.
In a small study conducted by researchers in the United Kingdom, thirteen men with untreated prostate cancer were monitored for two and half years while undergoing testosterone replacement therapy. At the end of the study, researchers found that the testosterone treatments not only helped raise testosterone levels from 238 ng/dl to 664 ng/dl, but the treatment had no effect on the study group’s PSA levels.
Other studies suggest that even though TRT may not cause prostate cancer, it may contribute to increased cancer growth in men with pre-existing PC.
Due to the ambiguity of various statistics gathered from these studies and the possibility that TRT may affect prostate growth in some men, researchers recommend that physicians advise males of the potential increased risk of prostate cancer that may be caused by TRT before starting treatment.
Increased Risk of Blood Clots
Since testosterone replacement therapy can help to increase red blood cell concentration, there is also a higher risk that the elevated blood cell count may cause the blood to thicken and slow down circulation in the body. Testosterone therapy can also increase the production of platelets–components in the blood that cluster together and form clots to control bleeding at the site of an injury–which can also cause blood clots to occur more regularly. Frequent blood clotting can become very dangerous in terms of health, as blood clots may travel to other parts of the body such as the arteries or veins in the heart, kidney, lungs, and brain, which can lead to more serious medical complications such as a stroke or heart attack.
Possible Acne and Hair Loss
Testosterone can affect the production of sebum, an oil-like substance secreted by sebaceous glands inside the skin pores that help to provide elasticity and a youthful appearance. However, when testosterone levels are high, it can overstimulate the sebaceous glands into increasing oil production, which can have negative effects on the skin. That increased oil production will make it easier to carry dead skin cells to the surface of your skin, and when the pores become clogged, it can trigger acne to emerge. Thus, using testosterone treatments to elevate your testosterone levels can lead to increased sebum production, which may cause the skin to break out in acne.
Testosterone is also synthesized into various types of testosterone to help regulate various areas of the body. One of which, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), is used to develop and strengthen follicles during the hair growth cycle. But even though DHT helps to promote strong hair follicles, it can also work as a double-edged sword against hair growth in certain cases. When DHT levels are too high, it can lead to an adverse effect on hair growth, causing the follicles to weaken and break from the scalp. Unfortunately, raising testosterone levels through TRT may also lead to increased DHT levels, therefore ceasing hair follicle activity, which can eventually lead to hair loss and male pattern baldness (MPB).
Negative Impact on Cholesterol Levels
Although it is true that taking testosterone treatments can help lower cholesterol, decreasing certain types of cholesterol may also harm your health. For example, HDL cholesterol, (good cholesterol) can remove LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) from the bloodstream and transport it to the liver, which eventually filters the harmful compounds outside of your body during urination. Since LDL cholesterol makes up most of the cholesterol inside the body and is largely responsible for the fatty buildup that leads to compromised cardiovascular health, HDL’s ability to remove LDL from the body actually provides a protective effect against potential cardiovascular issues. Thus, when HDL concentrations are below the normal parameters, it can increase the risk factors for cardiovascular conditions such as heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. Unfortunately, researchers have documented that some males that take testosterone medications may have lower HDL levels, which naturally elevate the chances of experiencing such cardiovascular complications. However, according to some studies, when TRT lowers HDL, it is usually accompanied by low LDL levels as the therapy typically causes total cholesterol levels to decrease. Although TRT may have different effects on cholesterol depending on the adult, it’s always wise to be aware of the potential risk before starting treatment.
Potential for Aggressive Behavior
It’s no secret that testosterone plays a significant role in stimulating various human behaviors, including competitiveness, and aggressive or dominant behavior. This typically occurs when the hormone activates the subcortical sections of the brain that produce aggression and irritability, while hormones such as cortisol and serotonin are usually later released to help balance an individual’s mood. However, when there is a higher testosterone-to-cortisol or serotonin ratio, men are less fearful of social consequences and more likely to exhibit socially aggressive behavior. Several studies show that high testosterone levels are commonly associated with aggressive behavior,
In most cases, increasing testosterone levels through TRT will typically help to improve mood and overall sense of well-being in men with Low T. However, once again, depending on the adult, there is a potential downside to having optimized testosterone levels. For one, there may be stages during therapy, where testosterone treatments may cause elevated T levels to reach higher than normal parameters. As a result, elevating testosterone to high levels through TRT may increase the chances of a male exhibiting aggression while undergoing treatment.
Suppression of Natural Testosterone Production
Although TRT can help to boost your testosterone levels, relying on the therapy as a long-term treatment may have negative effects on your natural testosterone production. For many men who undergo TRT to help with their low testosterone, the body becomes reliant on the additional testosterone provided by the treatment and turns off testosterone cell activity, effectively shutting down its natural testosterone production. Because testosterone is primarily produced by the Leydig cells found in the testicles, halted testosterone production may cause the testicles to shrink, leading to decreased sperm count and impaired testicular function.
Thankfully, this isn’t a permanent complication. After TRT is discontinued, natural testosterone production will once again resume, although it still may take some time for the body’s normal testosterone levels to return. However, it’s important to note that the longer you remain on TRT, the more time it will take for the body to adjust back to the previous testosterone levels you had before treatment. It’s also crucial to remember that if you were suffering from low testosterone before starting TRT, your testosterone levels will more than likely return to those same low parameters and cause your Low T symptoms to return, which is why testosterone replacement therapy is generally administered as a long-term treatment.
How To Receive Proper Testosterone Treatment
Now that you have more knowledge about the benefits you’ll gain and the risks involved with taking testosterone for Low T, you just need to find a licensed medical professional that’s trained in treating hormone imbalances who can properly administer testosterone and regularly monitor your testosterone levels if you decide to undergo TRT. With the assistance of a certified hormone specialist, you’ll get the attentive healthcare needed to help you reduce the chances of experiencing major side effects and the expert guidance that can lead to the proper regimen that will allow you to fully reap the benefits of testosterone therapy.
The medical professionals at Renew Vitality have years of experience in providing long-term testosterone replacement therapy to men struggling to maintain a fulfilling quality of life due to symptoms of low testosterone. Our team of physicians and wellness experts take time to study your physiology to create a customized treatment plan that can help you safely boost your testosterone levels and improve your physical function so you can regain a sense of well-being without experiencing major side effects. With our combined approach of incorporating healthy dieting, regular exercise, and precision treatment administration, we can help you receive the best results from your testosterone replacement therapy and increase your longevity for years to come. Schedule a consultation with one of our physicians at any of our hormone replacement clinics in the United States to begin working on restoring your overall health today.
Frequently Asked Questions
Whether taking testosterone is good or bad for you depends on the circumstances regarding your health. In general, testosterone is an essential male hormone that is responsible for many important biological and physical characteristics in the male anatomy. However, when testosterone begins to decline, it may be necessary to take additional testosterone to help maintain normal T levels and avoid potential physical complications such as impaired cognitive function, reduced muscle mass, and decreased sexual performance. For the most part, this treatment provides many benefits that usually help improve your overall health. Unfortunately, in certain cases, taking testosterone may also cause your T levels to become too elevated, which can also negatively affect other important aspects of your physical health including hair growth, cholesterol levels, and hair loss. Once again, it all depends on how your body will respond to additional testosterone treatment.
Typically, most adults’ testosterone levels usually peak around age 18 or 19 and will remain within normal parameters before they start to decline during the mid-30s or early 40s.
Generally, symptomatic men with confirmed testosterone deficiency are usually the most ideal candidates for testosterone replacement therapy.
There are conflicting opinions in the medical community as to whether TRT can cause prostate cancer. Currently, the consensus is that testosterone treatment may increase the risk of prostate cancer depending on the circumstances of each patient. For the most part, many researchers agree that although taking testosterone will not normally lead to PC, TRT may still exacerbate cancer growth in men with pre-existing prostate issues.
Many studies suggest that testosterone therapy can cause cholesterol levels to decrease in most adults, although there are also some cases where testosterone treatments had virtually no effect on cholesterol. Though this is still up for debate, it is believed that TRT’s effect on your cholesterol levels will ultimately depend on how your specific physiology responds to treatment.