Testosterone Replacement Therapy
Testosterone is a hormone made by the bodies of both people assigned male at birth and people assigned female at birth.
Testosterone plays a role in puberty and fertility, as well as libido — or sexual desire. In people assigned male at birth, most testosterone is made in the testes. In people assigned female at birth, most testosterone is made in the ovaries.
People assigned male at birth have higher levels of testosterone than people assigned female at birth. Testosterone influences the development of many physical characteristics. It helps increase muscle bulk, bone mass, physical strength, and body hair.
The levels of testosterone in your body are constantly changing in response to your body’s needs. However, the overall level of testosterone in your body changes throughout your lifetime as well.
Typically, testosterone decreases as you age — particularly in people assigned male at birth. For some people, these levels can become too low and cause unwanted effects that have them looking for ways to increase their testosterone levels.
What is a testosterone test?
In order to know whether testosterone levels are too low, a normal level has to be established. This has been a challenge for clinicians. However, according to a press release from the Endocrine Society in January 2017, results from a recent study have helped to define the normal ranges for testosterone levels in those assigned males at birth: 264–916 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL). This range is for those assigned males at birth between the ages of 19 and 39 years who don’t have obesity.
A testosterone test measures the amount of testosterone in your blood. If a doctor wants to test the hormone levels in your blood, they’ll most likely specify a time of day for your test. Hormone levels are highest in the morning, so this test is often performed in the morning between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. Your doctor may have your levels tested more than once.
Your doctor may ask you to stop taking certain drugs before your test, as they could affect your testosterone levels. It’s important to tell your doctor about all medications you’re taking. Include both over-the-counter and prescription drugs.
Testosterone home-testing kits are also available from companies such as LetsGetChecked. They use your saliva to test your hormone levels. After taking the test, you’ll send your sample to a lab for testing.
How to increase testosterone levels
There may be certain lifestyle changes to help increase testosterone levels, such as adding resistance exercise and losing weight.
Research indicates that resistance exercise, such as lifting weights, is related to temporary increases in testosterone levels.
An older 1999 study suggests that testosterone increases after heavy resistance training are typically much higher in younger than older people assigned male at birth — and overall don’t appear to greatly increase your overall testosterone levels.
Exercise, especially cardiovascular exercise, can contribute to weight loss, which can help to increase levels of testosterone.
Treating low testosterone levels
In addition to lifestyle changes and increased exercise, there are a few other options available to you that can help boost the amount of testosterone in your body. A few of these options have been proven in clinical trials. Others may claim to increase testosterone levels but don’t always provide substantial evidence to back up their claims.
Of course, if you’re concerned about your testosterone levels, it’s a good idea to share your concerns with a doctor. They’ll be able to verify your T levels and help build a treatment plan. Here are just a few of the most common ways to treat low testosterone levels.
Some types of herbal supplements claim to be “testosterone boosters.” The makers of these products claim that the ingredients help to increase levels of testosterone.
However, there isn’t enough research to support their effectiveness, and these products may not actually have ingredients that support their claims.
In fact, a 2020 study tested 50 supplements advertised as “testosterone boosting” and “libido improving.” The researchers found that less than 25 percent of them had data to support their claims, based on their ingredients. Moreover, 10 percent of the supplements tested contained ingredients that have a negative effect on testosterone, according to the study.
Additionally, these products aren’t closely regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that they aren’t tested or evaluated for their effectiveness and could contain undisclosed ingredients or have unexpected side effects. Consider talking with a doctor before taking a “testosterone booster” and discuss with them alternative treatments that are FDA-approved and clinically proven to work.
You may find there are more natural steps that may help to boost your testosterone level.
Some foods may play a role in helping your body moderate your testosterone levels.
Making sure you get enough foods that are rich in zinc and vitamin D may help to keep your testosterone at a normal level.
Here are seven testosterone-boosting foods that could help you get the vitamins and minerals you need to keep your testosterone levels healthy.
A 2018 animal study suggests that zinc supplementation increases testosterone and fertility in those with marginal zinc deficiency.
Testosterone replacement therapy is used to help treat people with abnormally low levels of testosterone.
Abnormally low levels of testosterone can affect normal body functions. They may contribute to decreased muscle mass, a lowered sex drive, erectile dysfunction (ED), and mood changes such as irritability and depression.
Testosterone replacement therapy involves taking prescribed testosterone medication in the form of pills, patches, and gel that you apply to your skin. Testosterone therapy can also come in the form of injections.
Testosterone injections are one of the more common forms of testosterone replacement therapy. They’re typically given by a doctor. You need them less frequently than other forms.
Symptoms of low testosterone
Symptoms of abnormally low testosterone can be bothersome and may impact your quality of life. These symptoms can include:
- decreased body hair
- decreased muscle mass
- low sex drive
- erectile dysfunction
- growth of breast tissue
If you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms and don’t believe they’re caused by something else, talk with a doctor. If your doctor thinks your symptoms are related to abnormally low testosterone levels, they can test your levels.
Low testosterone causes in people assigned male at birth
Testosterone levels in people assigned male at birth remain fairly constant from the start of puberty — when levels spike — until a person’s 30s when they slowly begin to decline.
For some people, testosterone levels may become abnormally low.
Causes of low testosterone levels include:
- delayed puberty
- testicular damage (caused by trauma, alcoholism, or mumps)
- hypothalamic disease
- pituitary disease
- noncancerous pituitary tumor
A number of genetic diseases can also affect testosterone levels, including:
- Klinefelter syndrome
- Kallmann syndrome
- myotonic dystrophy
Low testosterone in people assigned female at birth
Testosterone plays an important role in people assigned females at birth. However, testosterone levels are naturally lower in these individuals than in people assigned male at birth.
Usually, low levels of testosterone in people assigned female at birth aren’t problematic. However, levels that are too high may cause unwanted symptoms. These include:
- irregular or absent menstrual periods
- development of facial and body hair
- deepened voice
High testosterone levels in people assigned female at birth may be caused by:
- polycystic ovarian syndrome
- congenital adrenocortical hyperplasia
- ovarian cancer or tumor
- adrenal tumor
When to see a doctor
According to the American Urological Association, you should see a healthcare professional if you have any of the following symptoms of low testosterone, including:
- lowered sex drive
- lowered erectile function
- lowered lean muscle mass
- symptoms of depression
It’s worth noting that ED can be a symptom of low T levels, but there isn’t a strong correlation showing that testosterone replacement can also treat ED. If you’re experiencing ED, it’s worth talking with a doctor. They can confirm if low T levels are the cause of your ED symptoms or help you explore other alternative treatments that might work better for you.
Feel free to contact our team of qualified experts to apply for a free consultation.