Testosterone levels in men can decline for various reasons, including stress, aging, trauma, and some infections.
Testosterone plays a vital role in a range of bodily functions, including muscle and bone health, cognition, red blood cell, sperm formation, and sexual and reproductive function in males.
This article discusses TRT in more detail, including who it is for, the types, how it works, how to get it, what to expect from it, and more.
What is testosterone replacement therapy?
TRT or androgen replacement therapy (ART) is a treatment that doctors give to males who have testosterone deficiency and are showing symptoms of hypogonadism.
Taking prescription testosterone helps restore the levels of this hormone in the blood, reversing the symptoms of low testosterone. People who take it may notice improvements in alertness, sexual function, energy, mood, and overall well-being.
Who should take testosterone replacement therapy, and how does it work?
Doctors prescribe TRT to males with hypogonadism. To receive a definitive diagnosis, blood tests must show that a person has low testosterone levels, which the American Urological Association notes as being below 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dl). The individual must also have other symptoms, such as fatigue, breast growth, and sexual dysfunction.
However, doctors do not usually recommend TRT as the first course of action for low testosterone levels, even for males who show such symptoms.
If other conditions or medications cause testosterone levels to drop, doctors usually treat the underlying condition before recommending TRT.
Benefits of TRT
According to a 2019 study, TRT can improve sexual function, including:
- symptoms of erectile dysfunction
- sexual satisfaction
Further 2019 research suggests that TRT can also maintain bone density, with a 2016 study also revealing TRT’s improvement of cognitive function and attention span.
How to get TRT
TRT is only available with a prescription. If a person presents with symptoms consistent with low testosterone levels, a doctor will only provide a prescription after taking a thorough medical history and performing physical and lab exams.
As hormone levels fluctuate depending on activity levels, diet, and the time of day, doctors usually take two different blood samples before noon. They may sometimes also ask for imaging studies and additional tests, such as tests for luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulation hormone, to determine the cause of the low testosterone levels.
Learn more about types of TRT here.
What to Expect
TRT aims to restore a person’s testosterone levels to normal. The individual can expect improvements in their blood testosterone levels within a week, however, symptoms may take longer to improve.
A person may also note other benefits, such as an increase in bone density and lean body mass, an improvement in well-being, and a boost to energy and libido. It may take from 4 weeks to several months to see positive changes.
Unless caused by medical illness, TRT is typically a lifelong treatment. Once a person starts TRT, their doctor will continually monitor their response to treatment. People need to have routine checkups at least every 6–12 months to assess their blood testosterone levels.
A doctor will also monitor changes in symptoms and side effects at 3 and 6 months after the initial treatment and then annually.
For any concerns, don’t hesitate to ping a professional.