by Tony Robinson
If you’re a middle-aged man like me, I’ll bet you’ve noticed the television ads for testosterone replacement drugs. They ask if you are suffering from “Low T”?, if you have you lost your libido, suffered weight gain, are just not feeling like yourself anymore? Nobody ever thinks of themselves as that guy, but a lot of men could have this problem. I actually had many of the classic symptoms of low testosterone (reduced sex libido or sexual drive, insomnia, a general feeling of anxiety, irritability, increased blood pressure, and weight gain) but like a lot of other men I ignored them for a long time. It was only after my wife brought to my attention how bad things were between us that I became concerned enough to start really investigating if there could be something emotionally or physically wrong with me.
It was only a few weeks until my annual physical and when my doctor asked me if there were any other concerns I brought it up. At my age (42 years old) he didn’t think it was likely, solely based on my physical appearance because I’m in pretty good physical shape. I did convince him to have my testosterone level checked however. It’s always important to be persistent with your doctor if you have a serious concern. The test isn’t expensive, so don’t let them talk you out of it. A couple of days later when I got my results back, my concerns were vindicated. My level was less than 250 ng/gl. Anything under 300 ng/gl is abnormal at any age, so there was my first red flag.
My doctor wanted to wait a few months and test again, but again I was persistent and told him I wanted a referral to a specialist or I’d find one myself. I wasn’t going to wait. The next step would be an endocrinologist, a physician specializing in all hormones. I made the next available appointment, which was more than 6 weeks away. It was a long time waiting, but worth it. Once I got in to see the specialist, we talked about my symptoms, and he gave me a physical exam. One thing they check for is testicular cancer, which could be a cause. Luckily, that wasn’t the case for me so we scheduled a follow-up test to check my testosterone levels again along with several other hormone tests to rule out other possible causes. That time my testosterone level was barely 200 ng/gl. Things had actually gotten worse.
After that I spent a few sleepless nights worrying, because the other likely cause he told me was a pituitary gland tumor. That would mean a likely chance for surgery to correct it. The surgery is endoscopic and done through the nasal cavity. It has a relatively short recovery, only about 2 weeks, but still it wasn’t something I was looking forward to. If left untreated, even though the tumors are usually not cancerous, they can grow to cause headaches or even put pressure on the optic nerve and cause vision issues. Not something I was willing to chance.
My doctor scheduled an MRI to check for the pituitary tumor right away. I had a few tense days waiting for the results, but they came back negative. That was a real sigh of relief. My “T” levels could be linked to my Type 2 diabetes, which I’ve had for about a decade, or stress or other factors. After discussions with my doctor, we decided I’d do replacement therapy in the form of a gel applied daily. My other options included a patch or injections, but the gel seemed easy and with quick results. The testosterone replacement isn’t simply about my sexuality however. Besides improving my mood and increasing my ability to lose weight, it could also greatly reduce my chances for osteoporosis in the future as well. I’ve also heard it can improve respiratory function and insulin resistance, and maybe even reduce my cholesterol, all of which could really improve my life a lot down the road.
I’m not sure why the testosterone level isn’t part of the basic physical for men along with cholesterol, blood glucose levels and liver tests, but it isn’t. So, if you think there’s a chance you might have a problem, ask your doctor to be tested. Remember, your testosterone level has more impact on your health than just your sexuality. If you’ve got concerns, get yourself tested, just in case you are that guy. It turns out that I was, and after only a few weeks of treatment I’m feeling like a new man. Not like a superhero, but the transformation is definitely noticeable. I sometimes wonder now what direction my health and marriage might have gone it I hadn’t gotten treatment. I hope you don’t make that mistake. You don’t have to be that guy.
About Tony Robinson