The truth about testosterone
BATON ROUGE - Men showing similar symptoms to depression may actually have low testosterone levels. It's natural for men's testosterone levels to decline over time, but sometimes it can cause extreme fatigue, the inability to sleep and low libido.
"I just had no energy at all, I was just bottomed out," said Billy Berger.
Berger is the owner of B&B Staff-Tenders, a job that requires a lot of hours and attention. But six months ago, he said his energy plummeted; he felt tired, but had trouble sleeping. He had trouble completing his day-to-day activities and his memory, was slipping.
"It was starting to freak me out," he said.
Berger took a trip to the doctor and after a blood test, found out his testosterone levels were low. His doctor Stewart Cayton, put him on a therapy regimen consisting of growth hormone Sermorelin and Testosterone.
"Within a week, he was noticing a huge difference," said Cayton. He was sleeping through the night for the first time in years. His energy level was better, his mood was better."
Cayton, with the Aesthetic Medicine and Anti-Aging Clinics of Louisiana, says Berger receives testosterone therapy by injection, once every two weeks.
"I'm 42 and I feel 25," said Berger.
Not every man is a good fit. Most men visit Dr. Curtis Chastain at Our Lady of the Lake after seeing an advertisement on TV.
"But truly, probably less than 10 percent of the guys that come in to see me thinking they have testosterone deficiency actually have it," said Chastain.
Doctors say the only way to know for sure if your testosterone levels are low, is to get a blood test.
There are three types of testosterone therapy prescribed by doctors. Injections received once every two weeks, cream applied every day and dissolving pellets implanted under the skin, every four months. Those who receive the cream must be careful to not pass the testosterone onto people their skin comes in contact with. Some forms are covered by insurance, others might not be.
Chastain says typically, testosterone replacement therapy is a lifelong commitment.
"I'm not saying you have to take it for the rest of your life, but if you choose to get off of it, your testosterone levels are going to plummet and your own body isn't going to be manufacturing the testosterone any longer," he said.
It could take months or even a year for a person's body to bounce back and start making testosterone naturally again, once they are off the therapy.
For those who need it, testosterone therapy can help men feel younger and can bring back that sex drive, once lost.
"It might be possible that their decreased libido is due to testosterone deficiency and not anything else," said Chastain.
Doctors say many people misuse testosterone to beef up at the gym. Chastain says people as young as 20 visit his office requesting to be screened, or bring in labs from elsewhere that say they have low testosterone levels. He advises against it.
"Give me testosterone because they want to build their muscles up and be stronger and faster and all this stuff and they don't realize what they're doing to themselves, and it's just stupid," he said.
Although low testosterone can happen at any age, testosterone therapy might suppress sperm production and decrease your chances of having children. If a person's levels are strong already and they use the therapy, other problems can occur including violent emotional swings and physical changes.
Testosterone therapy is not advised for people with prostate cancer. While on the therapy, if a patient shows signs of prostate cancer, that patient must stop that therapy.
Each person on testosterone therapy must be evaluated at a six week check-up and every six months after. If a patient does not return for those checkups, doctors say their therapy is stopped.
Talk to your doctor to see if testosterone therapy is a good fit.