Hormone Therapy for Men: What is it? Signs & Symptoms, Conditions, Diagnosis, Treatment
Hormone therapy for men seeks to decrease the number of male hormones that your body is producing. The treatment is also referred to as androgen suppression therapy because, in the medical community, male hormones are called androgens.
The body’s principal androgens are testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT). The testicles produce most of the body’s androgens, but the adrenal glands, which are the glands positioned right over the kidneys, make them as well.
Hormone therapy may delay the growth of prostate cancer cells and rebalance your testosterone levels. With therapy, you may feel more energetic and regain your mental acuity.
Testosterone’s Role in the Male Body
Testosterone is the strongest androgen that your body produces. It is a collection of steroid hormones that medical professionals named after the Greek word for “man-maker.” The name is fitting because androgens do the job of making men look the way that they do. They are responsible for big muscles, forming strong bones, deepening voices, and establishing particular hair growth patterns that distinguish gender.
The hormone fosters the development of your body’s red blood cells. It also fuels genital growth when males reach puberty and are the reason why men produce sperm throughout their life. Testosterone has an impact on how men behave. The androgen influences your energy levels as well as your aggressiveness. It is vital for your sex drive, and it aids in a man’s ability to achieve normal erections and perform sexually.
As people age, changes occur. Your bone calcium levels will drop, and your muscle mass also decreases. Aging causes body fat to increase. It is also the reason for a decline in your red blood cell numbers. With more birthdays under your belt, you may feel more tired and become less interested in sexual activity.
Your testosterone levels also decrease with age. In fact, research has determined that a man’s total testosterone levels will drop by around 1% a year starting with his 40th birthday. Along with this, your body’s bioavailable testosterone will decrease by about 2% each year. When you combine lower testosterone levels and dwindling male capacities, it’s obvious why many men opt for hormone therapy. According to research, hormone therapy can turn back the clock to some degree. 
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Testosterone Deficiency?
The signs and symptoms of a testosterone deficiency include decreased libido, fatigue, and trouble keeping an erection. Decreased testosterone levels can also result in memory problems and diminished mental sharpness. When your testosterone drops, you might gain weight, feel depressed or experience anxiety. Low testosterone levels can bring on heart disease, make you grumpy and physically weak. These symptoms make hormone therapy a worthwhile treatment.
Natural Hormone Therapy for Men
Natural hormone therapy for men seeks to restore and maintain imbalances. Natural hormones feature a similar chemical makeup to the ones that your body produces on its own. Doctors in the United States are starting to recommend natural hormones to treat imbalances. In Europe, medical professionals have been prescribing them for years.
The amazing thing about natural hormone therapy is that it can be customized and personalized just for you. Instead of developing the same hormone for everyone who needs treatment, lab technicians compound them based on your personal body chemistry and what your body needs specifically. To undergo this type of therapy, a healthcare professional will exam and test you thoroughly. He or she will also go over the possible side effects with you.
When the hormones are replenished to normal levels in men, they may experience a turnaround in the changes that aging causes. If you decide to try natural hormone replacement therapy, then your doctor will prescribe testosterone. Natural testosterone is different from the synthetic version.
Male testosterone deficiency is a condition that’s hard to diagnose because it naturally decreases with aging. If you decide to try andropause replacement therapy, then you may also be advised to take pregnenolone, dehydroepiandrosterone, selenium, and other supplements.
What are the Side Effects of Hormone Therapy?
If you experience hot flashes following hormone therapy, they will likely become less severe or go away completely with time. Keep in mind that if you develop osteoporosis, you’ll be at a higher risk of breaking bones. Be sure to take steps to safeguard your bone health when having hormone therapy.
According to some research, men who have hormone therapy may be at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, experiencing a stroke, or having a heart attack. You may also be at risk for diabetes or death due to heart disease. However, there are studies that have not come to these same risk conclusions. Be sure to discuss the risks with your medical professional.
Most of the possible side effects from hormone therapy can be avoided or managed. For instance, if you experience hot flashes that fail to diminish or go away, then your doctor can prescribe specific antidepressants or other types of medications to help you with them. There are also medications that can avert and treat osteoporosis.
If you’re concerned about your breasts growing following hormone therapy, your doctor could deliver brief radiation treatment to them to prevent your breasts from becoming larger. This is something that you would have to do before they grow. Once breasts enlarge, the radiation won’t decrease their size.
You can treat depression by seeking professional counseling or with antidepressants. Also, regular exercise may potentially decrease many of the side effects caused by hormone therapy. For example, it can help with weight gain, osteoporosis, loss of muscle mass, and fatigue.
Some medical professionals have expressed concern that this type of therapy may cause cognitive problems including issues with memory, thinking, and concentration, but more research needs to be done to confirm this. While the therapy appears to cause memory issues for some men, the problem is rarely grave. Researchers continue to review these issues.
Can Hormone Therapy Help with Weight Loss?
Hormones are one of your body’s messaging systems. They play an important part in how your body functions. Hormones are discharged into the bloodstream and transported to specific cells to impact their function. For instance, they are why a male’s voice changes when puberty arrives.
Since testosterone is the hormone that’s responsible for building muscles, its presence may prevent fat from forming. Some studies show that when men are deficient in testosterone, they tend to develop fat with more ease than those with the proper testosterone levels. Fat tissue burns fewer calories than muscle, so when your muscle mass decreases, you will likely wind up eating more calories than your body is able to burn. This causes your body to burn the extra calories into fat.
The decrease in muscle mass is the main reason why a reduction in testosterone levels causes men to gain weight, and this can turn into a vicious cycle because obesity is a condition that can suppress a person’s testosterone levels. According to studies, men who are obese have 30% lower levels of testosterone than men who are at a normal weight for their height.
Over 70% of men who are considered morbidly obese experience hypogonadism, which is a disorder characterized by extremely low hormone levels. Those who have the condition experience a testicle dysfunction that stops the body from making enough testosterone. Men who have the condition may be able to reverse it by losing weight. Medical researchers don’t have exact answers about why obese men experience low testosterone, but they have shared theories.
For instance, belly fat features high amounts of an enzyme called aromatase, and it changes testosterone into estrogen, which is the sex hormone produced by women. It is why men who are obese have higher levels of estrogen than men who are at a regular weight. High amounts of aromatase and estrogen decrease the development of the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GRH). When this is low, your body will experience decreased amounts of the luteinizing hormone, which results in less testosterone.
Can Hormone Therapy Treat Chronic Pain?
There is research that hormone therapy can treat some types of chronic pain. The “Arthritis and Rheumatism Journal” published a study that researched how testosterone and estrogen can help individuals who are suffering from osteoarthritis. The study found that hormone therapy can provide pain relief. For the study, the research team looked into chondrogenic progenitor cells (CPCs), which are in the tissues that have been impacted by osteoarthritis. These cells can help the tissue regenerate if sex hormones activate them initially.
While sex hormones are vital for your sex drive, they also aid cell growth and work to maintain your body’s muscles and bones. Because of these factors, the research team decided to assess whether sex hormones could cause CPCs to regenerate the body’s joint tissue for pain management.
The team studied 372 tissue samples from knee replacement patients. According to the team, the tissue samples contained estrogen and testosterone receptors. When the team added the sex hormones into the tissue, they found that doing so increased the regenerative elements of the CPCs. Gender made a difference during the study. Tissue that came from women was most impacted by estrogen while tissue from men responded more to testosterone.
Some doctors prescribe hormone therapy for men with prostate cancer. Testosterone works for pain management because it plays an important part in your body’s natural opioid reactivity. The human body makes natural opioids, which are called endogenous opioids and include endorphins. When you have the proper testosterone levels, your body’s natural opioid receptors will continue to work well. If your testosterone levels are low, you may experience more pain.
About Bioidentical Hormone Therapy
Bioidentical hormone therapy is prescribed for both men and women who are dealing with a decrease in their hormone levels. It is also used to treat those who are experiencing unbalanced hormone levels. Research has found that bioidentical therapy can help with adrenal and thyroid issues as well as osteoporosis, sleep problems, anxiety, depression, and other medical ailments.
Bioidentical hormones are developed in a compounding lab, and to make them, lab technicians use plant-based sterols. In most cases, techs form bioidentical estrogen and testosterone capsules into small cylinders that are about the size of a Tic Tac. If you were to look into the chemical composition of these hormones, you would see that they are identical to the ones that your body makes naturally.
Bioidentical therapy includes estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone. Along with capsule form, they are also available in creams, gels, patches, and injections.
Bioidentical hormone therapy addresses:
- Hot flashes
- Weight gain
- Mood changes
- Sleep problems
- Lack of sexual interest
They can also decrease the risk of heart attacks, diabetes, and strokes in men while improving memory.
Preventing Hair Loss with Bioidentical Hormone Therapy
Your hair is a great indicator of your general health. There are a number of factors that cause hair loss ranging from poor nutrition to hormone imbalances. If your hair is starting to thin, determining the cause will help you choose the best hair loss treatment, which may be bioidentical hormone therapy.
While women experience menopause, men deal with a similar condition, which is called male menopause or andropause. The condition doesn’t affect men as much as women because the hormone decline occurs at a much slower pace in most men.
Hormones regulate hair growth, and when you experience stress or fail to eat a balanced diet, your body may not be able to regenerate hair follicles. The connection between losing hair and your testosterone levels is from dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is a byproduct of testosterone. DHT can trigger the hair follicles to revert and die, causing premature balding.
DHT decreases the hair’s growth cycle and extends the resting cycle. As time goes on, hair grows less and shortens until it just stops appearing. Genes can cause some hair follicles to be more sensitive to DHT. These hair follicles are typically toward the front and along with the crown of the head. Along with this, high testosterone levels mean that you’ll have higher levels of DHT, so it’s more likely for you to experience hair loss or baldness. The hormone also causes some teen acne as well as adult acne. It is why the prostate becomes enlarged in older men too.
If you’re looking into hormone therapy because of hair loss, then consider the amount of stress that you’re under first. Stress causes your body’s adrenal glands to make too much cortisol, which is known as the stress hormone. When your body has high cortisol levels, it decreases collagen, diminishes bone density levels, and reduces insulin. Too much cortisol can cause hair loss as well. Elevated and constant stress levels result in overactivity in the adrenal glands. This happens because they start to need more cortisol.
Hair loss is also a symptom that you have a thyroid disorder. Thyroid disease is a kind of hormonal imbalance, and when the body’s thyroid gland fails to operate properly, the condition impacts other hormones. If hair loss is the result of a thyroid condition, your hair’s texture may change. For instance, it may become coarse and dry. It may also snarl more easily. Your body and face hair may also be impacted by thyroid issues. One unusual symptom that accompanies hypothyroidism is thinning along the eyebrow’s outer edges.
There is a solid connection between hair loss and hormones. To check for hormone issues, medical professionals will assess your testosterone levels, thyroid hormones, cortisol amounts, and DHT levels to figure out whether your hair loss is the result of hormones or genetics. If the tests determine that your hormone levels are imbalanced, then you may need natural bioidentical hormone replacement therapy combined with a customized supplement, help from a nutritionist, and an exercise program. This kind of program can be an effective way to treat your hair loss.
How Do Doctors Diagnose Low Testosterone?
To determine whether your testosterone levels are low, your medical professional will give you a physical exam and go over your symptoms. There are also blood tests that can assess your testosterone levels. You’ll have several of these because testosterone fluctuates throughout the day.
If you receive a diagnosis of low testosterone, then your doctor may check your bone density levels to see if you also need osteoporosis treatment. It is possible to experience low testosterone levels without having symptoms. If you don’t have symptoms of low testosterone, then you may not need treatment.
Even if you are experiencing low testosterone and have symptoms, hormone therapy may not be the best option. If your medical professional can determine why your testosterone is dropping, then you may be able to increase your levels in other ways. For instance, if you have gained weight or are taking a specific medication, you may be able to treat low testosterone using other methods such as exercise and diet management or experimenting with a different medication.
Most men report that their low testosterone symptoms improved within four to six weeks of starting a testosterone replacement therapy. Keep in mind that physical changes like muscle mass can take three to six months to be affected. 
Who Should Consider Testosterone Therapy?
Hormone therapy is recommended for men with hypogonadism. Hormone therapy can reverse the side effects of the condition. Some men even feel more youthful and have more energy when they start taking testosterone.
If your doctor prescribes testosterone therapy, then there are several ways that it can be administered. You can choose intramuscular testosterone injections. With this treatment, your medical professional will inject the hormone into your buttock muscles every two to three weeks. Hormone patches are also available.
If you go this route, then you’ll place them on your arms, buttocks, belly, or back every day. Move the patches to a different part of your body regularly to prevent irritation. A topical gel is also available. With this treatment, you’ll apply the gel to your belly, shoulders, or arms daily.
A research team completed a weight-loss study involving testosterone replacement therapy and a reduced-calorie diet. The study was done over a 56-week period with 100 obese men participating. At the end of the study, the team found that the men who received testosterone injections lost more weight than the ones who didn’t by 6.4 pounds.
Both study’s groups lost muscle mass in addition to fat mass while participating in the low-calorie diet. However, the men who were receiving the additional testosterone saw a noticeable muscle rebuild when they entered the weight maintenance period of the study.
What are the Side Effects of Testosterone Therapy?
Most of the side effects of testosterone therapy are minor, but there are a few of them that can be serious.
Research has determined that the minor side effects of hormone therapy include:
- The need to urinate more
- Fluid retention
- Skin problems like acne
Serious side effects may consist of:
- Enlarged breasts
- Smaller testicles
- Higher cholesterol levels
- Lower sperm count
- Exacerbation of sleep apnea
- More red blood cells
If your body reacts with more red blood cells, then it may cause you to experience muscle pain, blurry vision, chest pain, blood clots, or high blood pressure.
Before starting hormone treatment, be sure to discuss it with your medical professional. The treatment benefits may outweigh the risks, but it’s always a good idea to make sure that you’re healthy enough for the treatment.
When to Consider Hormone Therapy
Some men benefit from hormone therapy. See your doctor determine why your hormone levels are low and whether hormone treatment is an option. Natural hormones are available, and if your body responds to them, you might feel like you turned back the clock on aging. Hormone therapy for men with prostate cancer can work to treat the condition. To make an appointment or to learn more about how we can help, give us a call at 305-682-1818.