An advertising blitz by testosterone therapy companies suggests that aging men who are feeling sluggish or down may simply need a boost of the male hormone.
Experts say that while testosterone therapy has proven to be less risky than previously believed, it may not be the right solution.
“If a guy is tired, running out of energy, or short of breath, what is the problem?” said cardiologist Robert Burke, MD, of HonorHealth in Arizona. “In my world, we look at the heart first.”
Burke examines the structure of the heart and rules out coronary problems. After that, a host of other medical factors could be to blame.
“It can be testosterone, thyroid, anemia, there are a lot of things that can go into making you feel lousy," Dr. Burke said. He added that poor sleep and a bad diet can also contribute to poor energy and mood.
According to the American Urological Association, testosterone levels naturally decline with age, but sometimes low testosterone can cause symptoms ranging from a lack of energy, to low sex drive, to depression. A simple blood test can reveal your testosterone level.
Dr. Burke says there are fewer concerns today with testosterone treatment compared to just a few years ago.
In 2015, an FDA warning alerted patients about the risks of testosterone therapy and a possible correlation with heart disease. While the FDA warning remains in effect, Dr. Burke says subsequent research showed minimal risk.
"What we've seen is that there probably are beneficial roles of testosterone in men who are truly hypotestosterone or hypogonadal, and it's safe," Dr. Burke said.
He said men should start by visiting their primary care physician to properly assess whether testosterone therapy is appropriate.
“It’s like everything else, you have to have a doctor whose going follow it, pay attention to levels and make sure everything is ok," Dr. Burke said.