Low down on low testosterone - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Low down on low testosterone


(WMC) - Tired, overweight, and otherwise uninterested in the bedroom? Ads on TV suggest these symptoms could mean a man is suffering from low "T," and that he should take drugs to increase his testosterone.

But is there a risked involved, not only to the him, but also his family?

The ads are everywhere and so are the men buying in.

"Your sex drive will increase whether you need it or not," said low T patient Brian Watkins.

Watkins, a Memphis insurance agent, says when he hit his 40s testosterone therapy gave him the boost he needed.

"I'm a lot more active with the children, a lot more active in my day-to-day life," he said.

At $25 per shot, he says he feels like his old self, and he's 25 pounds lighter.

It's a different story for William "Gordon" Booth.

"It took a toll on me," he said.

Booth says low T treatment almost killed him. He began using testosterone GEL at age 40 after he went to his primary doctor for an annual checkup.

"I saw on the wall where he had an advertisement for low testosterone," said Booth.

Two years later he had a heart attack followed by a stroke.

"I wound up losing my business and after that I lost my house," he said.

Booth is part of a growing number of men who claim they experienced an increased risk of heart attack and stroke after starting testosterone treatment.

In January, the FDA began investigating those claims, and just last month issued a new warning about blood clots.

Women and kids can be at risk, too. Studies show some women who came in contact with testosterone gel reported unnatural hair growth, some children started puberty early.

Booth has hired an attorney.

"We're continuing to get calls from people like Mr. Booth that have had problems after they've taken the testosterone replacement drugs, and we're getting more and more calls now that this information is coming out," Morgan & Morgan attorney Bryan Smith said.

In 2013, doctors wrote 7,490,000 prescriptions for testosterone up from 3,935,000 in 2009.

Doctor Barbara Geater warns some low T symptoms—hair loss, fatigue, low sex drive, and decreased muscle mass—can simply be a normal part of aging.

"When it becomes a trend, and to some degree a fad, money can be made off of it. When money can be made off of it, there are people who are going to be doing the right thing, and people who are going to be doing the wrong thing," said Geater, MD/Rentrop & Geater.

Experts say avoid clinics that appear to be in the business of writing prescriptions for testosterone therapy and nothing more. Make sure your doctor is frank about the risks and administers proper blood tests before treatment is prescribed.

"Their testosterone level itself needs to be followed. We need to maybe follow their cholesterol and their liver functions a little more often than someone who's not on testosterone," said Geater.

Drug manufacturer Eli Lilly says it will update labels with the most recent Federal and Drug Administration warning as risk research continues on a treatment popular with so many men.

Doctors suggest men who use testosterone gel should avoid skin-to-skin contact with women or children for the first two to four hours after applying.

And to be clear, low T treatment works well for many men. The research conducted by FDA is aimed at reducing risks for the growing number of men who've reported the opposite.

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