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Boosting Sex Drive with Testosterone: What Men Should Know

Carol Baldwin

Last updated: June 14, 2017 4:22 pm

Sex plays a significant part in the lives of most people. When men have concerns regarding performance and satisfaction, many turn to medications and other drugs that are advertised as helping to boost function and desire.

It is not surprising that there has been a steady increase in the number of men taking widely advertised prescription drugs like Viagra, Levitra and Cialis. In addition, many men have been asking their doctors about testosterone replacement therapy to try to boost their sex life.

While these drugs are frequently prescribed to treat erectile dysfunction and hypogonadism (low testosterone or “Low T”), respectively, they are not without risks and side effects.

In a January 31, 2014 Safety Announcement, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched an investigation into the risks of stroke, heart attack and death for men taking previously approved testosterone products. 1 The FDA claimed the need for reassessment was predicated upon results from distinct studies indicating increased numbers of cardiovascular problems among men taking testosterone products. 2

After holding an Advisory Committee in September 2014, in which many questioned the true benefit of testosterone products in men with “age-related hypogonadism,” the FDA issued a subsequent Safety Announcement on March 3, 2015. In the announcement, the FDA notified the public that it would require for manufacturers to “clarify the approved uses of these medications” and to “add information to the labeling about a possible increased risk of heart attacks and strokes…” 3

Role of Testosterone in Men’s Health

Testosterone is the primary sex hormone produced in the testicles. Testosterone regulates the development of male characteristics such as muscle bulk, bone density, and facial, pubic and body hair. Testosterone also maintains sex drive and aids sperm production.

Low testosterone (hypogonadism), as measured by laboratory tests, can result in:

  • Loss of body hair
  • Increased breast size
  • Weight gain
  • Loss of muscle bulk and strength
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Low sperm count
  • Inability to have or maintain erections
  • Mood changes (aggression and depression)
  • Lethargy
  • Shrinkage of the testes
  • Osteoporosis. 4

The more prominent of these Low T symptoms are the diminishment or loss of sex drive and erectile dysfunction. 5

Low T is usually diagnosed through blood tests and a physical examination. Your doctor will examine the penis, testes, scrotum and breast size, along with body hair. Your doctor may also check for any loss of side vision which can be indicative of a pituitary dysfunction that can lead to Low T. 6

Causes of Low Testosterone

Like natural menopause in women, males experience a natural decrease in testosterone levels any time after the age of 30. This gradual decline continues throughout the rest of their lives. However, some other causes of Low T include:

  • Damage or injury to the testicles
  • Infections
  • Castration
  • Chemotherapy or radiation treatments
  • Genetic abnormalities
  • Excessive iron levels in the body
  • Pituitary gland dysfunction
  • Inflammations
  • Chronic diseases or illnesses
  • Medications
  • Stress
  • Alcoholism
  • Obesity 7

Low Testosterone Side Effects and Treatment

A variety of Low T treatment options are available. Low T treatment may include prescription pills or patches, gels and pellet implants, and even injections. Your doctor can help you decide which treatment options are right for you.

Testosterone products’ side effects may be serious. These side effects may be mild or severe, depending upon the individual.

Testosterone side effects include:

  • Increased risk of worsening benign prostatic hyperplasia
  • Potentially increased risk for prostate cancer
  • Acne or oily skin
  • Fluid retention
  • Urinary changes in stream and frequency
  • Increased risk of blood clots
  • Worsening of sleep apnea
  • Breast enlargement (gynecomastia)
  • Decreased testicular size
  • Mood swings
  • Increased aggression 8

There are also some changes in laboratory results that can occur with testosterone replacement therapy:

  • Changes in cholesterol and lipid levels
  • High red blood cell count
  • Lower sperm count
  • Elevated PSA (prostate cancer screening test) 9

It is important to discuss your symptoms, treatment options and medications with your doctor, and to be aware of the side effects that accompany the use of any medications.

  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA evaluating risk of stroke, heart attack and death with FDA-approved testosterone products. (Jan. 31, 2014). http://www.fda.gov/downloads/drugs/drugsafety/ucm383909.pdf. Accessed March 2, 2015. 

  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA evaluating risk of stroke, heart attack and death with FDA-approved testosterone products. (Jan. 31, 2014). http://www.fda.gov/downloads/drugs/drugsafety/ucm383909.pdf. Accessed March 2, 2015. 

  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Drugs Safety Communication: FDA cautions about using testosterone products for low testosterone due to aging; requires labeling change to inform of possible increased risk of heart attack and stroke with use. (Mar. 3, 3015). http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DrugSafety/UCM436270.pdf. Accessed March 16, 2015. 

  4. American Association of Retired Persons. Is “Male Menopause” a Real Condition? (Jan. 2014). http://healthtools.aarp.org/health/mens-health-is-male-menopause-real. Accessed March 13, 2015. 

  5. WebMD. Erectile Dysfunction: Testosterone Replacement Therapy. (Jun. 5, 2013). http://www.webmd.com/erectile-dysfunction/guide/testosterone-replacement-therapy. Accessed March 2, 2015. 

  6. WebMD. Erectile Dysfunction: Testosterone Replacement Therapy. (Jun. 5, 2013). http://www.webmd.com/erectile-dysfunction/guide/testosterone-replacement-therapy. Accessed March 2, 2015. 

  7. WebMD. Erectile Dysfunction: Testosterone Replacement Therapy. (Jun. 5, 2013). http://www.webmd.com/erectile-dysfunction/guide/testosterone-replacement-therapy. Accessed March 2, 2015 

  8. WebMD. Erectile Dysfunction: Testosterone Replacement Therapy. (Jun. 5, 2013). http://www.webmd.com/erectile-dysfunction/guide/testosterone-replacement-therapy. Accessed March 2, 2015 

  9. WebMD. Erectile Dysfunction: Testosterone Replacement Therapy. (Jun. 5, 2013). http://www.webmd.com/erectile-dysfunction/guide/testosterone-replacement-therapy. Accessed March 2, 2015