Testosterone deficiency or a panacea for virility?
Thanks to a brilliant marketing campaign, there has been increased awareness among men of the condition of testosterone deficiency — or "Low T."
A number of young adults are wearing a Low T badge with pride to show off their newfound virility. At long last, they can blame their chronic fatigue, insomnia, poor work performance, depression and an evaporation of libido on low testosterone levels.
This new syndrome was not developed through the effort of brilliant scientists, but by the Eli Lilly and Co. as an attempt to let everyone know how widespread testosterone deficiency is among men from age 30 on. To make the problem easier to understand and by using a nationwide campaign blitz, "Low T" is now a familiar phrase. If you have it, you are part of the in crowd who hopes to be forever young. Numerous scholarly studies have shown that in men over 45, an average of 37 percent will have testosterone levels in the low normal, but not deficient, range.
Low testosterone does interfere with some critically important functions. The hormone is essential for the production of viable and healthy sperm — it plays a role in libido but not in becoming aroused or having an erection. It is not surprising then that a research study just published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that adding testosterone to the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra in men with low testosterone did not improve the quality of the erection in any way. Testosterone also is essential for strong, healthy muscles and bones, and when deficient, can lead to osteoporosis and weakness. These symptoms generally occur in men well beyond 75 and are much rarer in men in their 60s.
The nonspecific symptoms that have been ascribed, in part, to low testosterone include fatigue, reduced muscle mass and weakness, decreased sports performance, depression, increased body fat, decreased bone strength, loss of body hair, a need to shave less frequently and temporal crown baldness.
Whether in a doctor's office or at a Low T clinic, patients are begging for a testosterone shot, preferably combined with a vitamin B-12 injection, to boost vim and vigor.
Because so many of the symptoms of low testosterone are nonspecific and could be caused by stress, depression, sleep disorders and many other conditions, rushing to treat a younger patient with a testosterone injection or cream should be done with caution. Testosterone should not used as a panacea for more energy, better sleep habits or greater prowess on the tennis court or golf course. It should be used for the far more serious problems, such as infertility, muscle mass loss, osteoporosis and improving libido.
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