Symptoms and treatment of low testosterone
Testosterone, an androgen hormone produced by the testicles, is a vital hormone that is responsible for good overall health in men and promotes proper sexual function, muscle development and bone growth. Testosterone is considered a male hormone, as only tiny quantities of the sex hormone are produced in women.
Testosterone level is regulated by the pituitary gland, which releases the luteinizing hormone (LH). When the level of testosterone is low, LH normally increases its production. Symptoms of hypogonadism, the medical term for testosterone deficiency, include a decreased sex drive, erectile difficulties, low sperm count, depression, concentration problems, fatigue and reduced muscle and bone mass, which can lead to cases of osteoporosis in men. Low testosterone levels are easily measured through simple blood work taken by a physician during a routine physical examination.
Many treatments exist to increase a low testosterone level. Topical testosterone infused gels and creams are a popular form of hormone replacement therapy. They are applied and absorbed into the skin, steadily increasing the testosterone level in the body until the next application, usually 24 hours later. The gel itself is a mix of the hormone, water and alcohol. Testosterone creams are also sometimes used to treat cases of low libido in women.
Other hormone replacement therapies are the transdermal testosterone patch, injections of the testosterone-producing LH, or injections of the testosterone hormone itself. A physician will prescribe the appropriate form of medical treatment, if a deficiency is diagnosed.
Men looking to increase lean muscle mass or low hormone levels can also turn to testosterone supplements. The testosterone-boosting mineral formula ZMA (which is currently available at health stores) consists of zinc monomethionine aspartate, magnesium aspartate and vitamin B6. Zinc and magnesium are often depleted during athletic training, and are vital to testosterone production. Taking these supplements can increase the body's natural production of the hormone.
Viraloid, another testosterone booster, is a natural blend of alkaloids derived from high-sterol plants. The supplement works by stimulating the body's production of LH, which releases the testosterone hormone. Increased LH encourages the body to produce higher levels of testosterone naturally. The natural herb tribulus terrestris is also another known testosterone booster available in pill form. Like Viraloid, the herb also stimulates LH levels in the body.
Men interested in taking testosterone supplements should speak to their doctor about the risks and benefits of testosterone supplements, as pills available at health stores are marketed as dietary formulas and thus are not FDA-regulated.
By Paola Fanutti
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