What are these all-important hormones?
Hormones are circulated around the bloodstream to specific cells in the body where they help to control certain bodily functions. The key hormones which affect day-to-day wellbeing in men are Testosterone and DHEA (dehydropiandrosterone).
What is so special about testosterone?
Testosterone is a vital sex hormone found in both men and women. In men the levels of testosterone are 10-20 times higher than in women. During puberty higher levels of testosterone are secreted from the testes. This triggers sex organ growth, increased lean muscle mass, deeper voice, bone formation and higher energy levels. The peak levels of testosterone are in a man’s early to mid 20s. There has been increased interest in the last few years in the wide range of effects of testosterone on the body, and andropause (the male menopause). Research has shown that testosterone improves mental power by enhancing cognition, improves energy levels, bone density, muscle tone, moods and vitality.
What can cause low testosterone?
Excess weight especially around the abdomen
Illness or disease
Depression or mental illness
What are the symptoms of low testosterone?
+ Mental & emotional symptoms:
- Low mood
- Mood swings
- General lethargy
- Poor sleep
- Poor concentration
- Reduced intellectual agility
- Poor memory
- Weak feeling
If testosterone is found to be low, these symptoms can often be treated with testosterone therapy.
+ Sexual symptoms
One of the first signs of lowered levels of testosterone is a reduced libido, resulting in problems in sexual function. This can then contribute to lower self esteem, moodiness and depression, which can worsen the sexual problems, and so it can be a vicious cycle.
+ Physical symptoms
- Weight gain/body fat increase
- Reduced lean muscle mass
- Reduced energy level
- Reduced body hair
- Male breast tissue
Reduced libido/erectile dysfunction
+ Cardiovascular symptoms
Testosterone is a muscle building hormone, and the heart is a muscle too so low testosterone levels can result in cardiovascular disease. Testosterone can also help to keep cholesterol levels healthy. Low testosterone can result in:
- Increased insulin
- Increased cholesterol and triglycerides
- Raised blood pressure
- Increased fat around the abdomen – a risk factor for heart attacks
- Weakened heart muscle
What is DHEA?
DHEA stands for dehydropiandrosterone. It is the most abundant naturally-occurring steroid hormone, produced in both men and women, and secreted by the adrenal glands. It is known as the “mother of all hormones” as it watches over, supports and regulated the functions of other steroid in their immune system activity. DHEA is used to produce the sex hormones – testosterone, oestrogen, progesterone and corticosterone. DHEA levels start to rise rapidly at puberty and peak between 25-30. From the age of 30 levels start to decrease. This reduction correlates with signs and symptoms associated with ageing.
What are the benefits of DHEA?
Boosts immune system
Increases energy levels
Helps with weight loss
Reduces joint pain
Helps to deal with stress
Increases quality of life
What the symptoms of low DHEA?
DHEA levels are a key to your physiological age and resistance to disease. If the levels are low, you are more susceptible to ageing and disease. If you have too little DHEA it can result in fatigue, depression, weight gain, irritability and low motivation.
What is andropause?
Andropause is a gradual and very variable decline in the production of androgenic hormones – testosterone and DHEA. Hormonal changes can start to become noticeable around the age of 40. However, similar to women who can experience menopausal changes sooner, men can also experience changes before this age.
How can Hormone imbalances be diagnosed?
Together with your history of symptoms a blood test will be taken to help to diagnose any imbalance. The following blood tests may be advised:
Follicle stimulating hormone (a hormone produced in the pituitary gland)
Thyroid function tests
Prostate specific antigen
Full blood count
Dr Hodgkinson may suggest further tests such as HbA1c, which is a test to diagnose type 2 diabetes, and cholesterol.
If you have had any blood tests in the last 12 months through your GP, please bring copy of the results with you to your appointment.
Blood tests are not taken at Hampshire Health and Hormones. Dr Hodgkinson will advise you on where you can have the tests including at your home if you prefer.
What will happen at my initial consultation?
Prior to your consultation you will be sent a questionnaire with your registration details and a symptoms checklist. The consultation with Dr Hodgkinson lasts for one hour and includes a full medical history, information about your lifestyle, discussion about hormones and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. You be will advised which blood tests you should have depending on your symptoms and your medical history.
What will happen at follow up appointments?
You will have a 30 minute consultation to discuss the results of the blood test. Together with your history and the results of the test, Dr Hodgkinson may prescribe hormone replacement therapy – this can include testosterone, DHEA and vitamin D. She will also give you a lifestyle prescription with advice on lifestyle measures and supplements to help support your hormone levels and wellbeing.
For information on bioidentical hormone replacement therapy CLICK HERE.
Following initiation of hormone replacement therapy a follow up appointment 8-12 weeks later will be advised. Repeat blood tests should be taken within the first 3-6 months after treatment.
A review is recommended every 3 months for the first 1 year and then if levels are stable and symptoms resolved, every 6 months following that.