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Living With It: Low Testosterone Is a Double-Edged Sword

When erectile-dysfunction medication hit the market in the 1990s, "Saturday Night Live" aired a commercial parody featuring smiling husbands and their exhausted wives. Another SNL spoof featured "man in the street" interviews with men who became enraged at the suggestion that they needed the medication.

That type of frustration and anger accompanied my low testosterone diagnosis in November 2011. Although my doctor outlined many benefits of hormone replacement, nothing could take away the feeling that somehow, I was less of a man.

Steroids Are Expensive

Testosterone is a steroid. It's what gives us energy, drives our libido, and puts hair on our chest. If you don't have enough testosterone, one treatment option is, simply enough, to take a synthetic version of the steroid.

Once-heroic sports figures, such as Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds, put a negative spin on steroids and their negative side effects over the last decade. Despite the health risks, my physician advocated hormone replacement therapy.

It's not enough, though, to simply walk into a pharmacy with a prescription in hand. Steroids and other hormone replacements are expensive without good insurance and a coupon. My first trip to the pharmacist would have cost me $300 for a one-month supply without a manufacturer's coupon.

However, it took several trips before I found a coupon that my pharmacy benefit manager would accept. Also, pharmacies don't always keep steroids in stock, so it's a good idea to call in a refill a few days before the current month's supply is exhausted.

But They Work

It took a few weeks for me to feel the effects of the anabolic steroids, but once they kicked in, I felt like I did years ago. It almost seemed like that old grade-school joke about refusing to write on the blackboard due to an ill-timed erection ("No, thank you; I'll sit here and take a zero.").

With increased energy and a reinvigorated sex drive came a renewed tendency to flirt and tell dirty jokes. That rush of hormones superseded my good judgment in a lot of cases. Thankfully, I have several understanding female friends.

Be Aware of the Drawbacks

Low T treatments are really a double-edged sword because with the benefits come some risks. Before starting my therapy, my doctor checked my PSA level for indications of prostate cancer. Testosterone can stimulate the growth of those cancer cells, so regular blood tests are now part of my health regimen.

Hair loss can also occur with anabolic steroid use. My male pattern baldness was already noticeable. My doctor prescribed a drug typically used for benign enlargement of the prostate. It also disables the testosterone receptors in the scalp to ward off hair loss.

Anyone using steroids must also be cautious around other people. Children exposed to hormone supplements have shown signs of early puberty. My doctor warned me not to expose my girlfriend to my steroids—unless I like my women with beards and mustaches.

Coming to Grips With Low T

One year later, I am more comfortable with my daily treatments. My supplement is like a roll-on deodorant that I apply under one arm each morning. I let the liquid dry and then wear a T-shirt in addition to my normal work clothing. If I'm dating someone, I always shower before we go out in the evening to remove any trace residue on my skin.

My weight is down and my sex drive is up, so overall, the benefits have outweighed the risks.

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