Treatment for adults
Treatment for male hypogonadism depends on the cause and whether you're concerned about fertility.
Hormone replacement. For hypogonadism caused by testicular failure, doctors use male hormone replacement therapy (testosterone replacement therapy, or TRT). TRT can restore muscle strength and prevent bone loss. In addition, men receiving TRT may experience an increase in energy, sex drive, erectile function and sense of well-being.
If a pituitary problem is the cause, pituitary hormones may stimulate sperm production and restore fertility. Testosterone replacement therapy can be used if fertility isn't an issue. A pituitary tumor may require surgical removal, medication, radiation or the replacement of other hormones.
- Assisted reproduction. Although there's often no effective treatment to restore fertility in a man with primary hypogonadism, assisted reproductive technology may be helpful. This technology covers a variety of techniques designed to help couples who have been unsuccessful in achieving conception.
Treatment for boys
In boys, testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) can stimulate puberty and the development of secondary sex characteristics, such as increased muscle mass, beard and pubic hair growth, and growth of the penis. Pituitary hormones may be used to stimulate testicle growth. An initial low dose of testosterone with gradual increases may help to avoid adverse effects and more closely mimic the slow increase in testosterone that occurs during puberty.
Types of testosterone replacement therapy
Several testosterone delivery methods exist. Choosing a specific therapy depends on your preference of a particular delivery system, the side effects and the cost. Methods include:
Injection. Testosterone injections (testosterone cypionate, testosterone enanthate) are safe and effective. Injections are given in a muscle. Your symptoms might fluctuate between doses depending on the frequency of injections.
You or a family member can learn to give TRT injections at home. If you're uncomfortable giving yourself injections, a nurse or doctor can give the injections.
Testosterone undecanoate (Aveed), an injection recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, is injected less frequently but must be administered by a health care provider and can have serious side effects.
- Patch. A patch containing testosterone (Androderm) is applied each night to your back, abdomen, upper arm or thigh. The site of the application is rotated to maintain seven-day intervals between applications to the same site, to lessen skin reactions.
Gel. There are several gel preparations available with different ways of applying them. Depending on the brand, you either rub testosterone gel into your skin on your upper arm or shoulder (AndroGel, Testim, Vogelxo), apply with an applicator under each armpit (Axiron) or pump on your front and inner thigh (Fortesta).
As the gel dries, your body absorbs testosterone through your skin. Gel application of testosterone replacement therapy appears to cause fewer skin reactions than patches do. Don't shower or bathe for several hours after a gel application, to be sure it gets absorbed.
A potential side effect of the gel is the possibility of transferring the medication to another person. Avoid skin-to-skin contact until the gel is completely dry or cover the area after an application.
- Gum and cheek (buccal cavity). A small putty-like substance, gum and cheek testosterone replacement (Striant) delivers testosterone through the natural depression above your top teeth where your gum meets your upper lip (buccal cavity). This product quickly sticks to your gumline and allows testosterone to be absorbed into your bloodstream.
- Nasal. Testosterone can be pumped into the nostrils as a gel. This option reduces the risk that medication will be transferred to another person through skin contact. Nasal-delivered testosterone must be applied twice in each nostril, three times daily, which may be more inconvenient than other delivery methods.
- Implantable pellets. Testosterone-containing pellets (Testopel) are surgically implanted under the skin every three to six months.
Oral testosterone isn't recommended for long-term hormone replacement because it might cause liver problems.
Testosterone therapy carries various risks, including contributing to sleep apnea, stimulating noncancerous growth of the prostate, enlarging breasts, limiting sperm production, stimulating growth of existing prostate cancer and blood clots forming in the veins. Recent research also suggests testosterone therapy might increase your risk of a heart attack.