Testosterone is a natural hormone within the human body and very essential for both growth and development. Obviously, men can suffer from deficiency of testosterone, as can women. Studies show that this deficiency is common in the older age group of men (55 years and above). The number of men affected with testosterone deficiency is rising significantly. In the younger age group, the incidence of testosterone deficiency is as low as 6 %. However older men showed a marked increase in symptomatic deficiency. Studies show that within 10 to 15 years, the number of men with deficiency of testosterone may be as high as 6.5 million. After age 50, the amount of circulating testosterone decreases rapidly.
The typical definition of testosterone deficiency is less than 500nG/dl of total testosterone and less than 5nG/dL of free testosterone in the blood. However, (and this is important), not all cases of testosterone deficiency are symptomatic. This means that of the many cases of deficiency, only some of the men would have the symptoms associated with low testosterone. Such symptoms include a reduced interest in sex (loss of libido) and loss of erection (also called erectile dysfunction). This is the direct result of lack of the androgenic effect of testosterone. Also, the process of sperm formation is adversely affected. In addition, the male also has loss of the anabolic effects of this hormone. This includes osteoporosis. Also the patient may become lethargic, depressed with a disinterest in physical activity.
What are the causes of deficiency of testosterone? Medical science has researched this condition and found that damage to either the hypothalamus (a part of the brain), the pituitary (a small organ just below the brain) or the testes can cause deficiency of testosterone. This series of control mechanisms that regulates testosterone is called the hypoathalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. Also, testosterone production naturally decreases with age. In addition, conditions such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure) accelerate the process of testosterone deficiency.
There are various methods of treating this condition by hormone replacement therapy. Testosterone is given either orally or via the skin (transdermally). The oral route may cause adverse effects on the liver. As a result, the commonest method of hormone replacement therapy is via the transdermal route. A dermal patch (medicated patch of testosterone) is applied or stuck to the scrotum, abdomen, or the thighs. Small amounts of testosterone are released gradually from this patch over the day and this helps maintain normal blood testosterone levels.
For more information see: Testosterone