Testosterone insufficiency has been associated with HIV infection in men (Dobs et al 1988). Early reports suggested that testosterone therapy may have an ameliorating effect on both depression and decreased energy in HIV infected men, even if testosterone levels were not reduced (Rabkin et al 1999; Grinspoon et al 2000; Rabkin et al 2000). Both depression and fatigue, however, are common features of HIV-positive men and may be associated with factors other than reduced levels of testosterone. The disease itself may induce depression and fatigue may be a consequence of the disease, per se, or of some of the medications used to control HIV.
Early infancy androgen effects are the least understood. In the first weeks of life for male infants, testosterone levels rise. The levels remain in a pubertal range for a few months, but usually reach the barely detectable levels of childhood by 4–7 months of age. The function of this rise in humans is unknown. It has been theorized that brain masculinization is occurring since no significant changes have been identified in other parts of the body. The male brain is masculinized by the aromatization of testosterone into estrogen, which crosses the blood–brain barrier and enters the male brain, whereas female fetuses have α-fetoprotein, which binds the estrogen so that female brains are not affected.
Common side effects from testosterone medication include acne, swelling, and breast enlargement in males. Serious side effects may include liver toxicity, heart disease, and behavioral changes. Women and children who are exposed may develop virilization. It is recommended that individuals with prostate cancer not use the medication. It can cause harm if used during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
One study looking at alcohol consumption found that increasing alcohol consumption led to a higher level of free & total testosterone compared to a non-drinking control group (20). Drinking did however lower SHBG testosterone levels, though this type of testosterone is bound to a protein meaning our bodies cannot use it to build muscle or increase our mood.
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Studies of the effects on cognition of testosterone treatment in non-cognitively impaired eugonadal and hypogonadal ageing males have shown varying results, with some showing beneficial effects on spatial cognition (Janowsky et al 1994; Cherrier et al 2001), verbal memory (Cherrier et al 2001) and working memory (Janowsky et al 2000), and others showing no effects (Sih et al 1997; Kenny et al 2002). Other trials have examined the effects of testosterone treatment in older men with Alzheimer’s disease or cognitive decline. Results have been promising, with two studies showing beneficial effects of testosterone treatment on spatial and verbal memory (Cherrier et al 2005b) and cognitive assessments including visual-spatial memory (Tan and Pu 2003), and a recent randomized controlled trial comparing placebo versus testosterone versus testosterone and an aromatase inhibitor suggesting that testosterone treatment improves spatial memory directly and verbal memory after conversion to estrogen (Cherrier et al 2005a). Not all studies have shown positive results (Kenny et al 2004; Lu et al 2005), and variations could be due to the different measures of cognitive abilities that were used and the cognitive state of men at baseline. The data from clinical trials offers evidence that testosterone may be beneficial for certain elements of cognitive function in the aging male with or without cognitive decline. Larger studies are needed to confirm and clarify these effects.
Testosterone levels generally peak during adolescence and early adulthood. As you get older, your testosterone level gradually declines — typically about 1 percent a year after age 30 or 40. It is important to determine in older men if a low testosterone level is simply due to the decline of normal aging or if it is due to a disease (hypogonadism).