Can testosterone therapy promote youth and vitality?

Testosterone therapy can help reverse the effects of hypogonadism, but it's unclear whether testosterone therapy would have any benefit for older men who are otherwise healthy.

Although some men believe that taking testosterone medications may help them feel younger and more vigorous as they age, few rigorous studies have examined testosterone therapy in men who have healthy testosterone levels — and some small studies have revealed mixed results. For example, in one study healthy men who took testosterone medications increased muscle mass but didn't gain strength.

What are the risks of testosterone therapy for normal aging?

Testosterone therapy has various risks. For example, testosterone therapy may:

  • Contribute to sleep apnea — a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts
  • Increase your risk of a heart attack
  • Cause acne or other skin reactions
  • Stimulate noncancerous growth of the prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia) and growth of existing prostate cancer
  • Enlarge breasts
  • Limit sperm production or cause testicle shrinkage
  • Increase the risk of a blood clot forming in a deep vein (deep vein thrombosis), which could break loose, travel through your bloodstream and lodge in your lungs, blocking blood flow (pulmonary embolism)

Should you talk to your doctor about testosterone therapy?

If you wonder whether testosterone therapy might be right for you, talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits. A medical condition that leads to an unusual decline in testosterone may be a reason to take supplemental testosterone. However, treating normal aging with testosterone therapy is not currently advisable.

Jul. 10, 2014 See more In-depth