Because of inconclusive or conflicting results of testosterone treatment studies reported in the literature, Rabkin and colleagues (2004) undertook a comparison study among testosterone, the anti-depressant, fluoxetine, and placebo in eugonadal HIV positive men. They found that neither fluoxetine nor testosterone were different from placebo in reducing depression, but that testosterone did have a statistically significant effect in reducing fatigue. It is note-worthy that fatigue was reduced with testosterone treatment even though virtually all the men in the study had testosterone levels within the reference range.
Overall there is evidence that testosterone treatment increases lean body mass and reduces obesity, particularly visceral obesity, in a variety of populations including aging men. With regard to muscle changes, some studies demonstrate improvements in maximal strength but the results are inconsistent and it has not been demonstrated that these changes lead to clinically important improvements in mobility, endurance or quality of life. Studies are needed to clarify this. Changes in abdominal obesity are particularly important as visceral fat is now recognised as predisposing the metabolic syndrome, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Some of these signs and symptoms can be caused by various underlying factors, including medication side effects, obstructive sleep apnea, thyroid problems, diabetes and depression. It's also possible that these conditions may be the cause of low testosterone levels, and treatment of these problems may cause testosterone levels to rise. A blood test is the only way to diagnose a low testosterone level.
So, how does one ensure that testosterone levels remain in balance? Some doctors suggest that monitoring testosterone levels every five years, starting at age 35, is a reasonable strategy to follow. If the testosterone level falls too low or if the individual has the signs and symptoms of low testosterone levels described above, testosterone therapy can be considered. However, once testosterone therapy is initiated, testosterone levels should be closely monitored to make sure that the testosterone level does not become too high, as this may cause stress on the individual, and high testosterone levels may result in some of the negative problems (described previously) seen.