This article appears in Sept./Oct. 2015 60-Plus.
Todd Weber was typically a fairly active man. A senior radiation protection technician for Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) by day, he often spent his weekends racing stock cars with his teenage son or building cart racing accessories in his garage. Racing stock cars was a life-long hobby and something Weber loved to share with his son.
But about a year ago, that all began to change. Weber’s energy started to dwindle and his interest in cart racing waned with it.
“I had no energy or drive,” recalls Weber. “I just wasn’t enjoying life anymore. I knew something was seriously wrong when my son asked me to work on his car with him and I said no.”
His wife encouraged him to go to a doctor. The first doctor put him on an antidepressant. But Weber saw no change in his energy or mood. Then Weber saw something on the Internet about low testosterone levels. His symptoms matched up. He made an appointment with Chad LaGrange, M.D., urologist at Nebraska Medicine, who tested his testosterone level.
“My level was so low that he said my wife had more testosterone than me,” says Weber.
Weber received a hormone pellet injection, and within a few weeks, his energy had returned, he had a renewed interest in life, and was able to cut out the afternoon nap that had begun to be a part of his daily routine.
“Testosterone production begins to decline in men each year as they reach age 40 and beyond,” explains LaGrange. “About 15 percent of men will experience a drop in levels that is clinically significant, particularly those who are obese and/or have other chronic illnesses.”
Testosterone is the main male hormone that maintains muscle mass and strength, fat distribution, bone mass, sperm productions, sex drive, and potency. Very low testosterone levels can place men at higher risk for osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
This decline in hormones can result in symptoms such as low motivation, decreased stamina and energy, depression, hot flashes, loss of muscle mass, and mood swings.
Testosterone replacement therapy can be very effective at reducing these risks and improving symptoms. However, testosterone therapy is not without its side effects, and therefore, men should be carefully screened by licensed physicians to determine if they are a candidate for therapy, says LaGrange. In some cases, a drop in testosterone may be related to cancer, brain-related diseases, diabetes, obesity, and other hormonal abnormalities.
“If not diagnosed and treated properly, testosterone injections may cause blood clots, stroke, heart attack, and liver toxicity,” says LaGrange. “While there has been some debate over the safety of testosterone replacement therapy, most physicians agree that it is safe when provided for the appropriate reasons and monitored carefully.”
Additionally, men with treated or untreated prostate cancer should not use testosterone therapy unless they have spoken with their urologist about the risks and benefits.
Dr. LaGrange also cautions men to beware of over-the-counter testosterone boosters, which are not regulated and could cause harmful side effects.
“I feel like a new man,” says Weber. “It’s so good to feel better again.”