Running on empty

The diagnosis is still a judgment call by the physician.

“There’s no definite line where we say, This man needs testosterone and that man doesn’t,” says Dr. Damir Boras, medical adviser for Organon, which markets an oral testosterone medication.

Boras adds that TRT is not a magic bullet, a fountain of youth or a sexual tonic, and if you don’t have low-T, taking TRT won’t benefit you at all.

Types of treatment

Treatment comes in many forms. One of the newest – and the one Hébert uses – is AndroGel, a gel that must be rubbed into the chest or upper arms once a day. Pills, such as Andriol, are taken twice a day with meals. Injections are usually done every two weeks in the doctor’s office, although some men perform their own injections. Patches are applied to the skin every night. All of these medications contain a natural testosterone derived from the soya plant, unlike the synthetic anabolic steroids common to bodybuilders and baseball players and which can cause a host of negative side effects, such as balding, rage and liver disease.

TRT can come with its own short-term side effects, such as increased hair growth (unfortunately, only on the body, not the head), fluid retention and reduced fertility. It may also have some surprising benefits: a U.K. study in 2005 of men with heart failure found that their exercise capacity increased significantly over 12 months of TRT.

But the long-term picture, while promising, is still unknown.

That doesn’t matter to Richard Hébert, who plans to continue taking TRT regardless of any potential problems he might encounter. He says, “Life is not worth living without this.”

Is It Low-T or ED?

Both low testosterone and erectile dysfunction can impair a man’s sex life. How can you tell the difference between the two conditions? Here are the symptoms of each

Low-T • Decreased sexual desire. • Reduced erectile quality, accompanied by reduced frequency and/or quality of noctural emissions. • Low energy. • Treated with testosterone replacement therapy.

ED • Variable sexual desire. • Erectile performance problems. • May still have nocturnal emissions. • Normal energy. • Treated with medications such as Viagra, Levitra or Cialis.

*Chart adapted from

Copyright January 2008 CARP magazine