If most guys had a choice, they would probably wish for higher rather than lower levels of testosterone but doctors do not agree on what higher levels of testosterone really mean for men. While the word testosterone brings images of brawny men; competitive, aggressive, and oh yeah, muscular, thinking of low testosterone summons an entirely different image. People of a certain age will recall the old comic book ads of the 1970s about the 90 pound weakling who is embarrassed in front of his lady by the big muscular guy while walking on the beach. The skinny little guy goes off and gets buff. He comes back to get revenge, beating up the big guy, and winning his lady’s love once again.
Most men want to be the muscle bound fellow and most women reach for that ideal as well but experts say that testosterone and its function in the body is much more complex. Testosterone is labeled as the male hormone. It is produced in the testes and impacts men in puberty when certain masculine characteristics are developed. At that stage in life, testosterone is responsible for the growth of facial hair and body hair, the increase in the size of the penis and the testes, and the deepening of the voice. Later in life, testosterone plays an important role in sustaining the adult male’s interest in sex.
Men with low levels of testosterone experience things like low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, increased breast size and, understandably; considering those symptoms, depression. Men who have problems stemming from low testosterone levels can be treated with hormone replacement therapy. For men who have high levels of testosterone, however, there may be no hope. First of all, doctors do not all agree on what constitutes a high testosterone level or if high levels are really a problem. It seems that at higher levels of testosterone, men could be more susceptible to heart disease than guys who have lower levels. Also, in a really weird twist of fate, higher levels of testosterone could result in…what… increased breast size.
Other not so welcome effects of high testosterone levels in men include retention of fluids, overly aggressive growth of pancreatic cysts, an elevated risk of sleep apnea, and skin problems, just to name a few. With all this uncertainty circling around the testosterone levels, guys should probably be extra cautious about hormone replacement therapy because it is not clear what higher or lower levels really mean to a guy.
Naturopathic doctor and RN, Holly Lucille, and endocrinologist, Andjela Drincic, agree that concern about patients with higher levels of testosterone is rare. Both agree that there are other conditions including issues with the thyroid or adrenal tumors that would need to be ruled out before determining that problems actually stem from high levels of testosterone. Dr. Drincic argues that most of the time the problems that would seemingly be caused by excessive levels of testosterone are actually caused by the abuse of anabolic steroids.
According to Dr. Drincic, two things can basically cause symptoms related to high levels of testosterone in men; anabolic steroid use, which can cause rage, paranoia, and aggression and testosterone replacement therapy. In many instances, hormone replacement therapy is implemented without valid data to rule out other conditions. As a result, the treatment may be unnecessary and could actually cause other issues. On the other side of the coin, it appears that the medical society just like the skinny guy on the beach do not really see the harm in having too much testosterone.It would behoove guys who are wrestling with uncertainty about what high versus low testosterone levels really means to do their research and find a doctor that they can trust to give them the real “skinny.”
By Constance Spruill