Hormones are the chemicals that your body uses to regulate everything from metabolism and sexual function to growth and development. Even your mood and energy levels are largely influenced by the level and balance of various hormones in your system. We are all familiar with the hormonal rollercoaster of adolescence, but our hormone levels also change as we age. By the time we reach middle age, the production of some important hormones, such as testosterone, begins to decrease. The amount we do produce is not always as effective as it was when we were younger. As we mature, hormone receptors can become desensitized and are unable to uptake the hormone as readily and efficiently as they once did. Low testosterone is not just caused by aging. It can also be caused by many factors, including injury or infection of the testes, acute or chronic illnesses, metabolic disorders, various medications like chemotherapy, sleep apnea, and obesity.
Although typically thought of as a male hormone, low levels of testosterone can affect the health and well-being of both men and women. Men naturally begin to see a gradual reduction in testosterone levels between the ages of thirty and forty. Women, on the other hand, do not usually start to see a decline in testosterone levels until they are post-menopausal. For most women, menopause begins between the mid-forties and mid-fifties. In both men and women, lower levels of testosterone can cause several troublesome symptoms such as anxiety, depression, bone loss, cognitive decline, fatigue, sexual dysfunction, and weight gain.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms and your testosterone levels, your doctor may prescribe hormone replacement therapy as a treatment. This treatment can include either synthetic testosterone or bioidentical testosterone. Sometimes referred to as “natural hormone therapy”, Bioidentical hormones are chemically identical to the hormones naturally produced by your body and are derived from plants like yams or from soy. You may receive your treatment in a variety of formats that can include gel, a transdermal patch, injections, implanted pellets, or creams. Your doctor will help you decide which option is best for you.
Although the bioidentical testosterone options are just as effective as their earlier synthetic counterparts, they also have the same potential for side effects, particularly in larger doses.
More Does Not Always Mean More Effective
As with any medical therapy, bioidentical testosterone therapy carries with it a risk of side effects. In many cases, these side effects increase in severity as the dosage increases, so achieving proper hormone levels with the minimum dosage is always the goal of treatment.
Some potential side effects are mild such as:
- Increased growth of facial hair in both men and women
- Deepening of the voice, particularly in women
- Mild fluid retention
- Weight gain
- High libido
But some side effects are potentially more severe:
- Increased red blood cell counts can lead to blood clots, chest pain, high blood pressure, and muscle pain. Please seek immediate medical assistance if you experience chest pains or symptoms of a blood clot as these can signal a life-threatening condition.
- Decreased sperm count which can lead to infertility or difficulty conceiving
- Decreased testicular size
- Enlarged prostate
- Worsening sleep apnea
- Gynecomastia, a condition that leads to breast growth in men
Most side effects are mild and will fade in a short amount of time as your body adjusts to the treatment. Others can be easily treated by adjusting the treatment dosage or including additional medications to mitigate the bothersome effects. Therefore, it is important to speak honestly with your medical provider about your symptoms, take your medications as prescribed, and report any new or worsening symptoms or side effects. Your doctor will carefully monitor you throughout your treatment, adjusting your dosage to meet your specific needs and health goals. You are likely to have regular blood, urine, or saliva tests to monitor your hormone levels and other overall health markers.
Are you experiencing symptoms of low testosterone and ready to talk to a medical professional about it? Are you ready to find out what bioidentical testosterone therapy might be able to do for you? Give us a call us at (205) 352-9141. for more information or to make an appointment today!