What it is :
Testosterone is the hormone responsible for the development of male sexual characteristics. Hormones are chemical messengers that trigger necessary changes in the body. Females also produce testosterone, usually in smaller amounts.
It is a type of androgen produced primarily by the testicles in cells called the Leydig cells.
In men, testosterone is thought to regulate a number of functions alongside sperm production. These include:
- Sex drive
- Bone mass
- Fat distribution
- Muscle size and strength
- Red blood cell production
Without adequate amounts of testosterone, men become infertile. This is because testosterone assists the development of mature sperm.
Despite being a male sex hormone, testosterone also contributes to sex drive, bone density, and muscle strength in women. However, an excess of testosterone can also cause women to experience male pattern baldness and infertility.
Testosterone levels are controlled by the brain and pituitary gland. Once produced, the hormone moves through the blood to carry out its various important functions.
Testosterone replacement therapy :
Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) can help restore some affected functions of low testosterone.
Studies have shown that TRT mainly impacts bone strength and hemoglobin levels in the blood, but not mental sharpness.
The treatment can be administered by :
- Skin gels and patches
- Tablets that are absorbed through the gums
These can, however, trigger side effects, including :
- Increased red blood cell count
- Prostate and breast enlargement
- In rare cases, breathing difficulties during sleep
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease, although this is subject to debate
Deciding to pursue a course of TRT involves deciding between the perceived benefit of the therapy on the symptoms of a particular individual and the risks of the treatment.
A recent study, for example, suggests that TRT provides extra benefit for overall mortality and stroke for men whose testosterone levels have normalized with TRT.
Current research is conflicting. Additional studies into testosterone replacement are needed for physicians to fully understand its potential risks and benefits, and to identify the individuals that may see the most benefit.