Posts Tagged ‘testosterone replacement therapy’

Testosterone Update 2017: Untangling The Web

January 21, 2017

Andrew Siegel, MD   1/21/17

Testosterone deficiency (TD) is a not uncommon male medical condition marked by characteristic symptoms and physical findings in the face of low levels or low activity of testosterone (T). TD is most often seen in men above the age of 50 years and is a frequent reason for why men make appointments with urologists.

t

What are the 3 best predictors of TD?

1. Decreased sex drive

2. Erectile dysfunction (ED)

3. Decreased frequency of morning erections

T is a hormone that is essential to male vitality. TD can affect the function of many different organ systems and negatively impact one’s quality of life. Its signs and symptoms can vary greatly. Since T regulates the male sexual response—including desire, arousal, erections, ejaculation and orgasm—sexual dysfunction is a common component of TD and is often the presenting symptom. Low T can give rise to diminished libido, altered penile rigidity, decreased morning and nocturnal erections, decreased ejaculate volume and has been associated with delayed ejaculation. Other common symptoms are decreased energy and vigor, fatigue, muscle weakness, increased body fat, depression and impaired concentration and cognitive ability. Common signs are weight gain, visceral obesity (increased waist circumference), decreased muscle mass and bone density, decreased body and pubic hair, gynecomastia (male breast development) and anemia.

TD is often seen in men with chronic diseases including obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, HIV infection, opioid drug abuse, and chronic steroid usage.

Why does TD occur?

TD can result from a problem with the ability of the testes to produce T, or alternatively, because of an issue with the hypothalamus or pituitary gland in which there is inadequate production of the hormones that trigger testes production of T. At times there is adequate T, but impairment of T action because of inability of T to bind to the appropriate receptors. Additionally, increased levels of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), a molecule that binds T, can result in decreased levels of “available” T despite normal T levels.

Not an Exact Science

It is important to note that not everybody who has a low T level will have characteristic signs and symptoms and also that it is possible to have signs and symptoms of TD with a normal T level.

 Checking for TD should be done under the circumstance of a male complaining of any of the aforementioned symptoms and signs. Shortcomings of measuring T levels are results that can vary from laboratory to laboratory, a lack of a consistent and clinically relevant reference range for T, the variability of T levels depending on time of day that levels are drawn (values are highest in the early morning) and the fact that it is the free T and not the total T (TT) that is “available” to most tissues. T circulates in the blood mainly bound to proteins (SHBG and albumin). It is free T and albumin-bound T that are tissue “available” and active.

If TT and/or free T are low, the levels of the pituitary hormones luteinizing hormone (LH) and prolactin (P) levels should be obtained to distinguish between a pituitary versus a testes issue. Symptomatic men with a TT < 350 are candidates for treatment. A 3-6 month trial of treatment may also be considered in men with symptoms and signs, but without definitive TD on lab testing since there is no absolute T level that will reliably distinguish who will or will not respond to treatment.

T and Prostate Cancer

Although testosterone deprivation has proven effective in treating advanced prostate cancer, there is no evidence to support that treatment of TD with T will increase the risk of prostate cancer. Studies indicate that if T < 250, increasing levels of T will stimulate prostate growth, but once T > 250, a saturation point (threshold) is reached with further increases in T causing little or no additional prostate growth.

T and Cardiac Disease

 A broad review of many articles fails to support the view that T use is associated with cardiovascular risks. In fact, the weight of evidence suggests that treating TD offers cardiovascular benefits.

T and Fertility

T causes impaired sperm production as T is a natural contraception and T replacement should not be used in men desiring to initiate a pregnancy.

TD Treatment

There are numerous different means of T treatment. T pills are not a satisfactory option since testosterone is inactivated in its pass through the liver. There is a buccal formulation that is placed and absorbed between the gum and cheek. There are numerous skin formulations including patches and gels. These skin formulations are commonly used, but are expensive, carry the risk of transference to children, spouses, and pets, and can cause skin irritation. They have the advantage of flexible dosing, easy administration, and immediate decrease in T levels after stopping treatment. Long-acting T pellets can be implanted in the fatty tissue of the buttocks, generally effective for 3 to 4 months or so. The insurance hoops that are required to get this formulation approved and covered have proven to be a major challenge. T injections are also commonly used, typically using a slowly absorbed “depot” injection that, depending on the dosage, can last 1-3 weeks. There is also a very long-acting formulation that, like the T pellets, requires a very taxing process to gain insurance approval.

As an alternative to T replacement, clomiphene citrate is a selective estrogen receptor modulator that when taken on a daily basis will increase both testosterone levels and sperm count by stimulating natural testes production. Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) can be used as well. Advantages are that they stimulate natural testosterone production and do not impair sperm count.

Adverse Effects of T Treatment

Careful monitoring is imperative for anybody on T treatment. T levels must be checked in order to assure levels in the proper range. Prostate exams and PSA levels are used to monitor the prostate gland and a periodic blood count is performed to ensure that one’s red blood cell count does not becoming too elevated, which can incur the risk of developing blood clots.

It is important to understand that external T will suppress whatever natural T is being made by the testes, since the body recognizes the T and the testes loses its stimulation to produce both T and sperm. Long term T use can cause atrophy (shrinkage) of the testes.

Ongoing Treatment

Those patients who are experiencing benefits of T treatment can have periodic “holidays” of discontinuation to reassess the continued need for the treatment.

Excellent resource: Diagnosis And Treatment Of Testosterone Deficiency: Recommendations From The Fourth International Consultation For Sexual Medicine, Journal of Sexual Medicine 2016; 13:1787 – 1804

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a practicing physician and urological surgeon board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  Dr. Siegel serves as Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community that is in such dire need of bridging.

Author of MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health http://www.MalePelvicFitness.com

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health  http://www.TheKegelFix.com

Clomid: Not Just For The Ladies

August 20, 2016

Andrew Siegel MD 8/20/2016

Gender_differences_male_female

Frank Palopoli, Father Of Fertility

Frank Palopoli, the chemist who developed Clomid (clomiphene citrate), died last week at age 94. He conceived (pun intended) Clomid in the 1950s, a medication that stimulates ovulation and became the most widely prescribed fertility drug for women, resulting in pregnancy in millions of women who otherwise would not have been able to do so. Approximately 80% of women whose fertility is due to failure of ovulation respond to Clomid enabling conception. Clomid works by increasing production of hormones that spur egg ripening and release.

What’s Good For The Goose Is Good For The Gander

Clomid is not just for the ladies! In urology we have used it for many years to stimulate sperm production in infertile men with low sperm counts. But here is a little secret: it also raises testosterone levels nicely. It does so by stimulating the testes to secrete natural testosterone, as opposed to the other testosterone replacement products on the market that are external sources of testosterone that actually shut down testes production of sperm and testosterone. No shrunken testicles that have their function turned off, but respectable family jewels, happily churning out sperm and testosterone, as nature intended.

Clomid Biochemistry In A Nutshell (no pun intended!)

Clomid is a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM). It works by increasing levels of the pituitary hormones that trigger the ovaries to produce eggs and the testes to produce sperm and testosterone. It blocks estrogen at the pituitary, so the pituitary sees less estrogen and makes more LH (luteinizing hormone) that stimulates the testes to make testosterone, and more FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) that stimulates the testes to make sperm. This is as opposed to external testosterone, which does the opposite, increasing estrogen levels that prompt the pituitary to make less LH and FSH, which causes the testes to cease production of sperm and testosterone.

Clomid usually works like a charm in increasing testosterone levels and maintaining sperm production, testes anatomy (size) and function. Its safety and effectiveness profile has been well established and minor side effects occur in proportion to dose and may include (in a small percentage of people): flushes, abdominal discomfort, nausea and vomiting, headache, and rarely visual symptoms.

 One issue is that Clomid is not FDA approved for low testosterone, only for infertility. Many physicians are reluctant to use a medication that is not FDA approved for a specific purpose, requiring it to be used “off label.” However, Clomid is effective and less expensive than most of the other overpriced testosterone products on the market and has the major advantage of stimulating natural testosterone while not shutting down testicular function.

Bottom Line: By virtue of a very sophisticated biofeedback system involving the pituitary gland in the brain and the testes, the use of external testosterone to boost native testosterone results in whatever feeble function the testes might have had to virtually cease completely and the possibility of atrophied, non-functional testes that no longer produce any sperm or testosterone.

 Clomid is an oral, less expensive alternative to testosterone replacement that stimulates natural testosterone production as well as sperm production. Kudos to Dr. Palopoli, whose magic drug has not only helped millions of women get pregnant, but has also helped enable countless men to fertilize their partners as well as raise their testosterone levels. Clomid is safer and much more sensible than traditional testosterone replacement.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health– and MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health available on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, B&N Nook and Kobo; paperback edition available at TheKegelFix.com

Author page on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Andrew-Siegel/e/B004W7IM48

Apple iBook: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-kegel-fix/id1105198755?mt=11

Trailer for The Kegel Fix: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHZxoiQb1Cc 

Co-creator of the comprehensive, interactive, FDA-registered Private Gym/PelvicRx, a male pelvic floor muscle training program built upon the foundational work of renowned Dr. Arnold Kegel. The program empowers men to increase their pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, and endurance. Combining the proven effectiveness of Kegel exercises with the use of resistance weights, this program helps to improve sexual function and to prevent urinary incontinence: www.PrivateGym.com or Amazon.  

In the works is the female PelvicRx DVD pelvic floor muscle training for women.

Pelvic Rx can be obtained at http://www.UrologyHealthStore.com, an online store home to quality urology products for men and women. Use promo code “UROLOGY10” at checkout for 10% discount. 

Testosterone For Females: Is There A Role?

October 31, 2015

Andrew Siegel MD   10/31/15

Many of my recent entries have been male-oriented. It’s time to give the fairer sex some equal time.

BodybuildingWoman

(Above image entitled: Mujer culturista mostrando la musculación de la espalda y los brazos, author: roonb, created November 2007, no changes to original image, creative commons license 2.0, link to license: creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Female sexual dysfunction (FSD) is a common condition that may encompass diminished desire, decreased sexual arousal, difficulty achieving orgasm and pain with sexual intercourse. The most prevalent issue is decreased or lack of sexual desire, now given the formal medical title: Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD), although I prefer the less formal, non-medical version: “Honey, I’m not in the mood.”

Testosterone (T)—the key male sexual hormone—has a strong role in stimulating sexual drive in both men and women and has long been used to manage diminished female libido and other sexual issues, despite it not being approved by the FDA for this intent. It has been shown to improve libido, arousal, sexual pleasure and overall sexual satisfaction.

Testosterone In Women

Although T is the major male sex hormone, it is also vital in females, similarly to how estrogen is the key female sex hormone, but has important functions in males as well.  In pre-menopausal women, the ovaries and adrenals (those paired glands that sit atop each kidney) each produce about 25% of T, with the other 50% produced by muscle and fat cells. The two biggest factors leading to a decrease in blood T levels are aging and menopause.

Pre-menopausal women produce about 0.25 mg T/day. (Men produce 6-8 mg T/day, about 25 times as much as females). Even after menopause, the ovaries continue to produce T.  Women who have their ovaries removed experience a dramatic decrease in T.

One of the major limitations of measuring T levels in females is the lack of reliable and accurate assays to precisely measure T levels at such low concentrations. Another shortcoming is that there is no concensus on what precisely is the lower level of T in females.

Symptoms of low T in females may include diminished libido, fatigue, lack of energy, decrease in well being, impaired concentration, depression and difficulties with arousal and orgasm. These symptoms of low T are very non-specific and have quite an overlap with the symptoms and changes that accompany normal aging, insufficient or poor quality sleep, overworking and/or an unhealthy lifestyle. Signs of low T in females are decreased muscle mass, increased body fat, thinning hair and bone wasting (osteopenia).

Decreased Female Libido

This is defined as absent or reduced interest in and arousal from sex, erotic thoughts, fantasies, or written, verbal, and visual cues.  There is usually a reduction in initiation of sex and reception to partner’s initiation attempts. When sexual activity does occur, there is often absent or reduced sensation (both genital and non-genital), excitement and pleasure. Although low T is an important cause of decreased sex drive, there are many other competing causes including other sexual issues such as pain with intercourse or inability to orgasm, medical diseases, medications, unhealthy lifestyle, fatigue, pregnancy, breast-feeding, menopause, boredom, stress, many other psycho-emotional factors and relationship issues.

Treatment Options

T has been shown to improve sexual function in both pre-and post-menopausal women. Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) should only be a consideration after other causes of diminished libido have been eliminated.  It is challenging to predict which women will respond best to T therapy. Another concern is the safety and potential side effects with the long-term use of TRT.

There are currently no FDA-approved TRT products for women in the USA, so any usage is off-label. Products designed for TRT in males are available in a variety of preparations, including skin patches, gels and creams, buccal (gum) preparation, nasal gels, injections and long-acting pellets implanted in fatty tissue. Common side effects of TRT include unwanted hair growth, acne and mood or personality changes.

Addyi (Flibanserin) is a new oral medication for diminished libido.  It is currently being marketed largely to females, but is purportedly effective for both genders. It is the first FDA- approved prescription for diminished sex drive and has been referred to as “pink Viagra.” It is not TRT, but works centrally by affecting serotonin levels. It just became available this month.

Excellent reference on this subject: Khera, M. Testosterone Therapy for Female Sexual Dysfunction. Sex Med Rev 2015;3:137-144

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”: www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Author of Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health: available in e-book (Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo) and paperback: www.MalePelvicFitness.com. In the works is The Kegel Fix: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health.

Co-creator of Private Gym, a comprehensive, interactive, FDA-registered follow-along male pelvic floor muscle training program. Built upon the foundational work of Dr. Arnold Kegel, Private Gym empowers men to increase pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, power, and endurance: www.PrivateGym.com or Amazon.

TESTOSTERONE: Truths and Tall Tales—25 Questions Answered

October 17, 2015

Andrew Siegel MD   10/17/15

bodybuilding-311351_1280

(Thank you, Pixabay, for above image)

There has been an “epidemic” of a clincal syndrome based on low testosterone levels.  Is it real or is it a pharmaceutical company “figment” fueled by aggressive direct-to-consumer marketing for expensive and profitable easy-to-apply testosterone products?  Is testosterone replacement therapy the fast track to youth and alpha-male sexuality for the aging male, or is it harmful?  There is no subject rife with more confusion and misinformation than testosterone deficiency and its treatment. Hopefully, the following 25 questions and answers, culled from those commonly asked by my patients at office visits, will help enlighten and inform you and clarify misconceptions and falsehoods.

Abbreviations:

T: Testosterone (the key male sex hormone)        TD: Testosterone Deficiency

TRT: Testosterone Replacement Therapy       E: Estrogen (the key female sex hormone)

  1.  I don’t recall hearing much about testosterone years ago–Why has it suddenly become such a hot and trendy topic?

Big Pharma with their deep pockets and oversized advertising budgets started the “T” ball rolling. In 2008, AbbVie—manufacturer of Androgel—began an “Is it low T?” television campaign. Since that time, T has become a household word and T sales are up over 500% in a very competitive several billion-dollar market.

     2.  What exactly is T?

Testosterone is an “anabolic” hormone, a chemical messenger that promotes growth via protein synthesis, which drives the building of muscle and bone mass as well as strength; testosterone is equally an “androgenic” hormone, causing masculinization. T is made from cholesterol with most produced in the testes, with a small amount made in the adrenal glands (organs that sit above kidneys). Healthy men produce 6-8 mg testosterone daily, in a rhythmic pattern with a peak in the early morning and a lag in the later afternoon. If you find that you are most amorous in the early morning, now you have a good biochemical explanation.

   3.   When does T kick in and what does it do?

T surges around age 12-14 or so and drives puberty, causing the following: penis enlargement; development of an interest in sex; increased erections; pubic, underarm, facial, chest and leg hair; decrease in body fat and increase in muscle and bone mass, growth and strength; deepened voice and prominence of the Adam’s apple; sperm production; and bone and cartilage changes including growth of jaw, brow, chin, nose and ears and the transition from “cute” baby face to “angular” adult face.

   4.   Is T important after puberty?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Throughout adulthood, T helps maintain libido, masculinity, sexuality, and youthful vigor and vitality. Additionally, T contributes to mood, red blood cell count, energy, and general “mojo.”

   5.   What is TD and why does it occur?

TD is a clinical and biochemical syndrome characterized by relevant symptoms and signs in conjunction with a deficiency of T or T action. Symptomatic TD occurs in 2-6% of men.  There is approximately a 1% decline in T level each year after age 30. Most commonly it is an impaired testicular production of T. It can also happen because of a pituitary issue in which there is not enough production of luteinizing hormone (LH), the hormone that drives the testes to manufacture T.  Furthermore, it can happen under circumstances of normal T levels when there are elevated levels of the hormone that strongly binds T (SHBG), reducing the amounts of T available for action. It is important to distinguish TD on the basis of testes impairment vs. pituitary impairment, as the management is different.                                                                                                          

   6.   Is T going to help my erections, which are not quite what they used to be?  

Maybe.  Although T is important for sexual function and for maintaining the health and vitality of the penis, one does not need high or even normal levels of T to obtain an erection.  A good example is a pre-pubertal boy who gets erections all the time, but has no interest in sex.  The more compelling role of T is in driving libido.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           7.   T seems like such a vital hormone for men…is it for me?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               ONLY under the circumstances of a testicular or pituitary problem causing the characteristic symptoms of TD coupled with a blood test that proves that low T levels is it worth pursuing a trial of TRT. It is only beneficial continuing the TRT if it is providing meaningful symptom improvement in the face of a normalized T level.

   8.   How does T get to the body tissues where it works?

Since T is a hormone–a chemical messenger that is made in one locale but works elsewhere–it needs to be transported to get to those cells where it acts.  T circulates in the blood stream–60% is inactive as it is tightly bound to SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin), 38% is weakly bound to albumin, and 2% is free. The albumin-bound and free T are the biologically “active” forms of T.

   9.   How does T work?

Much of T is converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a more potent form, which couples with a special receptor enabling it to move into the nucleus of cells and bind to DNA, where it provides the blueprint for protein synthesis. Some T does so without being converted to DHT and some T is converted to E, the main female hormone.

   10.   What about the female hormone estrogen…is it important for men?

Yes…More than 80% of E in males is derived from T. When levels of T are low, a decline in E levels will occur. E deficiency is important in terms of osteopenia (bone thinning) in men. As commonly happens with abdominal obesity, E levels become too high as abdominal fat is an active endocrine organ that converts T to E, causing low T, high E, breast development, the appearance of a smaller penis and general emasculation.

   11.   Why have T levels been dropping over the years?

Unhealthy lifestyle and the use of alcohol, steroids (for asthma, arthritis, connective tissue disorders and inflammatory bowel diseases) and opiate pain medications (methadone, tramadol, etc.) are risk factors. Obesity has played a huge (pardon the pun) role. Diabetes and metabolic syndrome have contributed to the low T epidemic as well. Physical and psychological stress affect pituitary hormone synthesis, which can give rise to low T levels. Sleep apnea can contribute to TD. Environmental factors such as phthalates, commonly used in plastic products, as well as many other environmental exposures, are associated with low T levels.

   12.   How important of a factor is obesity in causing TD?

Obesity is the single most common cause of TD in the developed world. More than half of men with TD are overweight or obese.  The good news is that it is potentially reversible with weight loss.

   13.  What is the issue with diagnosing low T based upon the established ADAM (androgen deficiency in the aging male) screening test?

The ADAM screening questions are very general and involve decreased libido, diminished erections, lack of energy, decrease in strength/endurance, loss of height, decreased joy, the presence of sadness or grumpiness, deterioration in sports performance, falling asleep after dinner and deterioration in work performance.  These symptoms have an enormous overlap with changes that accompany normal aging, insufficient or poor quality sleep, overworking and/or an unhealthy lifestyle.

Take, for example, a professional athlete of your choice who is at peak performance in his early 20’s. Fast-forward 30 years…how many of the aforementioned questions do you think will be answered positively?… Is it low T?…Possibly, but certainly not probably.

   14.   What are the symptoms that indicate the possibility of TD?

5 domains may be affected by TD: physical, sexual, cognitive, affect and sleep. Physical changes are reduced muscle mass and strength, increased body fat and abnormal lipid profiles, frailty, breast development, loss of body hair and central obesity. Sexual changes include decreased desire, diminished erection quality and weakened ejaculation and orgasm. Cognitive changes that may occur are impaired concentration, diminished verbal memory and altered visual-spatial awareness. Changes in affect can be a reduced sense of general wellbeing, decreased energy and motivation, anxiety, depression and irritability. Sleep issues include fatigue, tendency to sleep during the day and difficulties falling and staying asleep.

   15.   How does one diagnose TD with lab testing?

The diagnosis of TD is made via a blood test for total T and free T as well as for the pituitary hormones, LH and prolactin. In cases of obese or elderly men, SHBG can be useful. It is important to know that T levels can vary depending on the particular lab and can fluctuate on a day-to-day basis as well as depending on what time of day it is drawn, as T has circadian biorhythms.  T can be temporarily suppressed by illness, nutritional deficiency and certain medications. Fasting T levels are generally higher than T levels after a meal. The bottom line is that T should be checked on at least two occasions.

   16.   What is the first-line approach to treating TD?

Lifestyle improvement measures including weight reduction, exercising regularly, management of sleep apnea and stopping the use of opioids.

   17.   When should TRT be used?

When TD fails to respond to first-line approaches in a man with characteristic symptoms and laboratory documentation of TD.

   18.   What is the goal of TRT?

To restore T levels to the mid-normal range of levels observed for healthy men and alleviate the signs and symptoms of TD without causing significant side effects or safety issues.

   19.   What are some of the testicular side effects of TRT?

Because TRT is an external source of T, it suppresses testes function, resulting in diminished sperm count, decreased fertility and the possibility of testes atrophy (shrinkage) with long-term use. Men who wish to retain fertility should not be put on TRT, but should consider the use of an oral medication that stimulates the testes to produce natural testosterone without suppressing sperm count.

   20.    What are some of the other side effects of TRT?

Acne, oily skin, breast development, worsening of sleep apnea, hair loss, fluid retention, elevated blood count and aggression.

   21.   How is TRT administered?

There are many different preparations: buccal (applied to the gums); transdermal (patches and gels); nasal gel; injections; and pellet implants. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

   22.   What about treating TD without TRT?

Since TRT impairs sperm development and fertility and may result in testes atrophy, an alternative to TRT–clomiphene citrate–works by stimulating the testes to produce natural T. It is approved by the FDA for both male and female fertility, but not for TD, so must be prescribed “off-label” for TD.

    23.   Do men with TD on TRT need follow up?

Yes, regular follow up is imperative to ensure that the TRT is effective, adverse effects are minimal, and T blood levels are in-range. Periodic digital rectal exams are important to check the prostate for enlargement and irregularities, and, in addition to T levels, other blood tests are important including a blood count to check for increased hematocrit (thicker, richer blood) and PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen).  With the commonly used gel products, absorption rates vary considerably from person to person depending on skin thickness, body hair, preparation, application site, degree of sweating, etc., so dose adjustments need to be made depending on T levels that are periodically checked.

   24.   What about TRT in men with cardiac disease or prostate cancer?

To quote a review article from the Journal of Sexual Medicine (Dean et al: The ISSM’s Process of Care for the Assessment an Management of TD in Adult Men, 2015;12:1660-1686) “TRT use has been complicated by controversies regarding prostate cancer and cardiovascular risks. Although the absence of large-scale, long-term controlled studies with TRT limits the ability to make definitive conclusions regarding these risks, the weight of evidence fails to support either concern.”

    25.   How about T supplements or boosters that can be bought online?

A. The Internet is overrun with male “sexual enhancement” products. They capitalize on male insecurity, which has created a huge market, with hordes of men willing to pay top dollar for products that have misleading claims and are often mislabeled, contaminated and falsely advertised. Unfortunately, such supplements are exempt from the stringent regulatory oversight applied to prescription drugs, which requires reviews of a product’s safety and effectiveness before it goes to market. Do not waste your money!

Bottom Line: TD is very real entity, but not as common as Big Pharma makes it out to be. The symptoms can be devastating and when accompanied by lab testing confirming the suspected clinical diagnosis, TRT can be magical.  I had one patient who eloquently described his “world of black and white turning into a world of color” after his T level was normalized. For many others with the syndrome, the beneficial effects of TRT are far more subtle.  If your T level is normal, it is highly unlikely that your symptoms are on the basis of low T and TRT should not be a consideration.  

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”: www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Author of Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health: available in e-book (Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo) and paperback: www.MalePelvicFitness.com. In the works is The Kegel Fix: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health.

Co-creator of Private Gym, a comprehensive, interactive, FDA-registered follow-along male pelvic floor muscle training program. Built upon the foundational work of Dr. Arnold Kegel, Private Gym empowers men to increase pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, power, and endurance: www.PrivateGym.com or Amazon.

What You Don’t Know About Testosterone Treatment…and Perhaps A Better Option

January 10, 2015

Andrew Siegel MD  1/10/15

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The Magic Of T

You probably have heard a great deal about T (testosterone) and its extraordinary properties and indeed, for the symptomatic man who has low levels of T, boosting levels of this hormone can result in a remarkable improvement of energy, sexuality (sex drive, erections, ejaculation), masculinity, mood, body composition (muscle and bone mass), mental focus and other parameters. However, men considering T treatment need to understand that T is not a cure-all and must only be used under the circumstances of symptoms of low T and laboratory testing that shows low T. Most certainly, T has been over-marketed, over-prescribed and certain side effects have been understated. It is vital to understand the side effects of T before committing to treatment.

Some Necessary Science

Most T is made by the testicles. Its secretion is governed by the release of LH (luteinizing hormone) from the pituitary, the master gland within your brain. Some of T is converted to E (estradiol). E is the primary hormone involved in the regulation of the pituitary gland. Under the circumstance of adequate levels of T, E feeds back to the pituitary to turn off LH production. This feedback loop is similar to the way a thermostat regulates the temperature of a room in order to maintain a relatively constant temperature, shutting the heat off when a certain temperature is achieved, and turning it on when the temperature drops.

The Effects of Being on Long-Term Testosterone Replacement

So what happens when you have been on long-term T? This exogenous (external source) T, whether it is in the form of gels, patches, injections, pellets, etc., shuts off the pituitary LH by the feedback system described above so that the testes stop manufacturing natural T. Additionally, the testes production of sperm is stifled, problematic for men wishing to remain fertile. In other words, exogenous T is a contraceptive! Nearly all men will have some level of suppression of sperm production while on T replacement, less so with the gels vs. the injections or implantable pellets.

Thus, using T results in the testes shutting down production of natural T and sperm and after long-term T use, the testes can actually shrivel, becoming ghosts of their former functional selves. And if you stop the T after long-term use, natural function does not resume anytime quickly.  Although recovery of natural testosterone and sperm production after stopping T replacement usually occurs within 6 months or so, it may take several years and permanent detrimental effects are possible.  So, at the time that you are receiving the benefits of exogenous T, your natural T is shut off and you can end up infertile, with smaller testicles (testicular atrophy, in urology parlance)!

Is there an alternative for the symptomatic male with low T? Can you boost levels of T without shutting down your testes and developing shrunken, poorly functional gonads?

The answer is an affirmative YES, and one that Big Pharma does not want you to know. There has been such a medication around for quite some time. It has been FDA approved for infertility issues in both sexes and is available on a generic basis. In urology we have used it for many years for men with low sperm counts. But here is a little secret: this medication also raises T levels nicely, and does so by triggering the testes to secrete natural T. It works by stimulating the testes to make its own T rather than shutting them down. No marble-sized testes that have their function turned to the “off” mode, but respectable family jewels. The other good news is that treatment does not necessarily need to be indefinite. The testes can be “kicked” back into normal function, and at some point a trial off the medication is warranted.

The medication is clomiphene citrate, a.k.a, Clomid, and I will refer to it as CC. CC is an oral pill often used in females to stimulate ovulation and in males to stimulate sperm production. CC is a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM) and works by increasing the pituitary hormones that trigger the testes to produce sperm and testosterone. CC blocks E at the pituitary, so the pituitary sees less E and makes more LH and thus more T, whereas giving external T does the opposite, increasing E and thus the pituitary makes less LH and the testes stop making T.

Works Like A Charm

CCis usually effective in increasing T levels and maintaining sperm production, testes anatomy (size) and function. Its safety and effectiveness profile has been well established and minor side effects occur in proportion to dose and may include (in a small percentage of men): flushes, abdominal discomfort, nausea and vomiting, headache, and rarely visual symptoms. In general, those with the highest LH levels have the poorest response to CC, probably because they already have maximal stimulation of the testes by the LH.

Not FDA Approved For Low T

One issue is that CC is not FDA approved for low T, only for infertility. Many physicians are reluctant to use a medication that is not FDA approved for a specific purpose. It needs to be used “off label,” even though it is effective and less expensive than most of the other overpriced T products on the market.

Bottom Line: Treatment to boost T levels should only be done when one has genuine symptoms of low T and a low T level documented on lab testing. It is imperative to monitor those on such treatment on a regular basis. Using T to boost T can result in shutting down the testes and the possibility of atrophied, non-functional testes that do not produce sperm or natural testosterone. CC is an oral, less expensive alternative that stimulates natural T production.

A study from Journal of Urology (Testosterone Supplementation Versus Clomiphene Citrate: An Age Matched Comparison of Satisfaction and Efficiency. R. Ramasamy, JM Scovell, JR Kovac, LI Lipshultz in J Urol 2014;192:875-9) compared T injections, T gels, CC and no treatment. T increased from 247 to 504, 224 to 1104 and 230 to 412 ng/dL, respectively, for CC, T injections and gels. Men in all of the 3 treatment arms experienced similar satisfaction. The authors concluded that CC is equally effective as T gels with respect to T level and improvement in T deficiency-related clinical symptoms and because CC is much less expensive than T gels and does not harm testes size or sperm production, physicians should much more often consider CC, particularly in younger men with low T levels.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

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A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”: www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Author of Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health: http://www.MalePelvicFitness.com

Co-creator of Private Gym pelvic floor muscle training program for menhttp://www.PrivateGym.com

Testosterone: Not Just For Men; Estrogen: Not Just For Women

October 5, 2013

Andrew Siegel MD Blog # 122

What’s going on with the unrelenting direct–to-consumer television advertising for medications?  On television and radio we are bombarded with ads for drugs for the “ABC” diseases—ED (erectile dysfunction), OAB (overactive bladder), low T (testosterone).  What’s all this hubbub about T (testosterone) anyway?  Why is T suddenly so special, so hot and trendy, the hormone de jour, the “new” Viagra?  Is this for real or mere media hype?

Medicine is truly in its “infancy” with respect to its understanding of the male and female sex hormones, testosterone (T) and estrogen (E), respectively. Not too long ago it was dogma that T was solely the male hormone and that E was solely the female hormone.  As is often the case in science, “dogma” turns to “dog crap” with time, research, and progressive understanding.

Dr. Joel Finkelstein, in the September 13, 2013 New England Journal of Medicine, disrupted the endocrine status quo and provided the scientific basis for the major importance of both T and E for male health and wellness (and there is little doubt that both E and T are also equally crucial for female health and wellness). His study clearly demonstrated that muscle size and strength are controlled by T; fat accumulation is primarily regulated by E; and sexual function is determined by both T and E.

Some basics about T:

In the life of the male embryo, T is first produced during the mid-first trimester, and this hormonal surge causes the male external genitalia (penis and scrotum) and internal genitalia (prostate, seminal vesicles, etc.) to develop. In the absence of T, the fetus becomes a female, making the female gender the “default” sex. Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is the activated form of T required by the fetus to initiate the development of male physical characteristics. In the absence of DHT, male genitalia do not develop.  DHT is far more potent than T and is the hormone that also gives rise—much later in life—to male pattern baldness and the condition of benign prostate enlargement.

T is produced mostly in the testes, although the adrenal glands also manufacture a small amount. T has a critical role in male development and physical characteristics. It promotes tissue growth via protein synthesis, having “anabolic” effects including building of muscle mass, bone mass and strength, and “androgenic” (masculinizing) effects at the time of puberty.  With the T surge at puberty many changes occur: penis enlargement; development of an interest in sex; increased frequency of erections; pubic, axillary, facial, chest and leg hair; decrease in body fat and increase in muscle and bone mass, growth and strength; deepened voice and prominence of the Adam’s apple; occurrence of fertility; and bone and cartilage changes including growth of jaw, brow, chin, nose and ears and transition from “cute” baby face to “angular” adult face.  Throughout adulthood, T helps maintain libido, masculinity, sexuality, and youthful vigor and vitality. Additionally, T contributes to mood, red blood cell count, energy, and general “mojo.

Thanks to the advertising of Big Pharma, patients now come to the office requesting—if not demanding—to know what their T levels are. Prescriptions for T have increased exponentially over the last five years, creating a $2 billion industry with numerous pharmaceutical companies competing for a piece of the lucrative T pie, as the cost of the product is minimal and the markup is prodigious.  Little did Butenandt and Hanisch—who earned the Nobel Prize in chemistry for their synthesis of testosterone from cholesterol way back in 1939—know of what their discovery would lead to 70 years later!

Who Knew? Humans manufacture T using cholesterol as a precursor, so don’t be under the delusion that all cholesterol is bad. However, don’t get carried away consuming cholesterol-laden foods reasoning that the Big Mac with cheese will raise your T.

T can bind to specialized receptors that are present in many cells in the body and exert numerous anabolic and androgenic effects; alternatively, T can be converted to 5-DHT  (the active form of T) or can be converted to estradiol—a form of E—by the chemical process of aromatization. More than 80% of E in men is derived from T as a source. When levels of T are low, there is a decline in E levels. E deficiency is important in terms of osteopenia (bone thinning) in both men and women.

Dr. Finkelstein’s study was really a more sophisticated and quantitative take on the original study by organic chemist Professor Fred Koch at the University of Chicago in 1927, this time using humans instead of animals, and quantitating the effect of the T replacement as opposed to a qualitative assessment. Professor Koch used capons—roosters castrated surgically (having their testes removed) at a young age.  He then injected them with a substance obtained from bull testicles—readily available from the Chicago stockyards—which essentially was T.   After injecting the capons with this extraction, the capons crowed like roosters, a feat that capons are incapable of.  When the study was repeated in castrated pigs and rats, the substance was found to re-masculinize them as well.  Unlike Professor Koch, who used surgically castrated animals, Dr. Finkelstein used humans who were temporarily “castrated” via a reversible medication.

In Dr. Finkelstein’s study, as reported in the NEJM, there were 2 groupings of 5 populations of men. Both groupings had their T production blocked chemically. One population was given no replacement T, another 1.25 grams T daily, another 2.5 grams T daily, another 5 grams T daily, and the last group 10 grams T daily. The average serum T and E levels of each population were the following: no testosterone replacement: 44/3.6; 1.25 grams: 191/7.9; 2.5 grams: 337/11.9; 5 grams: 470/18.2; 10 grams 805/33. The second grouping of 5 populations had their E blocked as well.  Testing was done to see the effects of T and E levels on lean mass, muscle size and strength, fat mass, and sexual function.

By looking at the aforementioned numbers, one can see a direct relationship between T dose and serum level of both T and E.  The higher the T dose, the greater is the serum T and E.  The study concluded that lean mass, muscle size and strength were T dose-dependent, meaning the higher the T, the more the lean mass, muscle size and strength.  Additionally, fat mass was seen to be E dose-dependent and sexual function was both T and E responsive.

Dr. Finkelstein concluded that E deficiency in men is a manifestation of severe T deficiency and is remediable by T replacement. Fat accumulation seems to occur with a mild T deficiency (T measurements in the 300-350 range); muscle mass and muscle strength are preserved until a more marked T deficiency (T <200) occurs.   E was shown to have a fundamentally important role in the regulation of body fat and sexual function and evidence from previous studies demonstrated a crucial role for E in bone metabolism. Therefore, low T is not just about low T, but is also about E deficiency, which is responsible for some of the key consequences of T deficiency. Measuring levels of E are helpful in assessing sexual dysfunction, bone loss, and fat accumulation in men with low T.

The amount of T made is regulated by the hypothalamus-pituitary-testicular axis, which acts like a thermostat to regulate the levels of T.  Healthy men produce 6-8 mg testosterone daily, in a rhythmic pattern with a peak in the early morning and a lag in the later afternoon. T levels can be low based upon testicular problems or hypothalamus/pituitary problems, although the problem most commonly is due to the aging testicle’s inability to manufacture sufficient levels of T.  T levels gradually decline—approximately a 1% decline each year after age 30—sometimes giving rise to symptoms.  These symptoms may include the following: fatigue; irritability; decreased cognitive abilities; depression; decreased libido; ED; ejaculatory dysfunction; decreased energy and sense of well-being; loss of muscle and bone mass; increased body fat; and abnormal lipid profile. A simple way to think about the effect of low T is that it accelerates the aging process.

T is commonly prescribed for T deficiency when it becomes symptomatic. There are many means of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).  Oral replacement is not used because of erratic absorption and liver toxicity. Injections are not the first-line means of TRT because of wide fluctuations in testosterone levels and injection site reactions. There are a number of testosterone gel formulations that are commonly used. There are also skin patches, pellets that are injected into the fatty tissue of the buttocks, and a formulation that is placed in the inner cheek or gum. Currently in the works is a long-acting injection.

Men on replacement T need to be followed carefully to ensure that the TRT is effective, adverse effects are minimal, and blood levels are in-range. Periodic digital rectal exams are important to check the prostate for enlargement and irregularities, and, in addition to T levels, other blood tests are obtained including a blood count and PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen).  Potential complications of TRT include acne and oily skin, increased hematocrit (thicker, richer blood), worsening of sleep apnea, hair loss, and suppression of fertility.

Bottom Line: T and E levels are of vital importance to men (as well as women), greatly impacting physical development, sexuality, mood, energy levels, etc. So while T advertisements may be annoying and confusing, it is wise nonetheless to assess and monitor T levels, particularly if one is experiencing any of the myriad of symptoms associated with low T.

Reference: “Gonadal Steroids and Body Composition, Strength, and Sexual Function in Men by Joel Finkelstein, M.D., et al:  ”The New England Journal of Medicine (September 12, 2013)

Andrew Siegel, M.D.

Author of Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food: www.promiscuouseating.com

Available on Amazon in Kindle edition

Author of: Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health;  book is in press and will be available in e-book and paperback formats in November 2013.

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