The medical term for below-normal levels of testosterone is hypogonadism, also called “low testosterone,” or “Low T.” It’s estimated that between 2 and 4 million men have this condition.
Men with low T levels may begin to feel symptoms such as:
- Tiredness or loss of energy
- Low sexual interest
- Problems getting or maintaining an erection
- Depressed mood
- Decreased sense of well-being
- Muscle weakness
- Weight gain around the waist
- Reduced bone density
- Small or soft testicles
Men are more likely to have low testosterone if they have any of these conditions:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Since testosterone circulates in the blood, testing for it is easy: a small sample of blood is drawn and the amount of testosterone is measured. This is a quick and nearly painless test usually done in a doctor’s office or lab.
If you have been diagnosed with Low T, you have a number of options. The most popular current method of replacing testosterone is with a gel that is applied daily to the skin of the shoulders, upper arms, or abdomen. The testosterone is absorbed into the body through the skin. If used correctly, testosterone levels can return to normal and stay there.
Testosterone can also be given as a shot every 7-21 days, usually at a doctor’s office. With shots, testosterone levels reach their highest point 1–2 days after dosing, and slowly fall over the next several weeks. Testosterone patches are another way to deliver testosterone through the skin. They are applied daily to the back, abdomen, thighs, or upper arms—a different site each day to lessen the risk of skin irritation.
Remember that any form of testosterone replacement therapy may produce side effects, including:
- Acne or oily skin
- Mild fluid retention
- Stimulation of prostate tissue, which may cause some difficulties with urination
- Breast enlargement
- Smaller testicle size
There’s another, more natural way to raise testosterone levels that I often recommend. In this approach the goal is to stimulate the body’s own capacity to make testosterone—to fortify the testicles, rather than dumping external testosterone into the body, which weakens the testicles.
Clomiphene citrate, marketed in pill form as Clomid or Serophene, is a prescription medicine commonly used for female infertility. It works by stimulating a part of the brain (the pituitary gland) that controls production of two hormones key to reproductive health: follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). Both hormones are also vital to men. FSH stimulates sperm production in the testicles, and LH stimulates testosterone production.
Modest doses of clomiphene successfully raises testosterone levels in men without impairing testicular function. Not only is testosterone boosted, sperm production and sperm quality may be enhanced as well.
I believe using clomiphene is an excellent way to raise the body’s testosterone levels—particularly in men using it to treat infertility. Other drugs similar to clomiphene are being developed that may provide similar benefits with, perhaps, lower risks (though clomiphene is, relatively speaking, a very safe drug).
A word of caution: Clomiphene should only be used under a doctor’s supervision, and it should only be used by men who have documented hypogonadism. Like any medicine, clomiphene can be abused, and if not used correctly in appropriate patients, it may do more harm than good.