A: Testosterone production declines naturally with age. Low testosterone, or testosterone deficiency (TD), may result from disease or damage to the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, or testicles that inhibits hormone secretion and testosterone production. Treatment involves hormone replacement therapy. The method of delivery is determined by age and duration of deficiency. Oral testosterone, Testred (methyltestosterone), is associated with liver toxicity and liver tumors and so is prescribed sparingly. Transdermal delivery with a testosterone patch is becoming the most common method of treatment for testosterone deficiency in adults. A patch is worn, either on the scrotum or elsewhere on the body, and testosterone is released through the skin at controlled intervals. Patches are typically worn for 12 or 24 hours and can be worn during exercise, bathing, and strenuous activity. Two transdermal patches that are available are Androderm (nonscrotal) and Testoderm (scrotal). The Androderm patch is applied to the abdomen, lower back, thigh, or upper arm and should be applied at the same time every evening between 8 p.m. and midnight. If the patch falls off before noon, replace it with a fresh patch until it is time to reapply a new patch that evening. If the patch falls off after noon, do not replace it until you reapply a new patch that evening. The most common side effects associated with transdermal patch therapy include itching, discomfort, and irritation at the site of application. Some men may experience fluid retention, acne, and temporary abnormal breast development (gynecosmastia). AndroGel and Testim are transdermal gels that are applied once daily to the clean dry skin of the upper arms or abdomen. When used properly, these gels deliver testosterone for 24 hours. The gel must be allowed to dry on the skin before dressing and must be applied at least 6 hours before showering or swimming. Gels cannot be applied to the genitals. AndroGel is available in a metered-dose pump, which allows physicians to adjust the dosage of the medication. Side effects of transdermal gels include adverse reactions at the site of application, acne, headache, and hair loss (alopecia). For more specific information on treatments for low testosterone, consult with your doctor or pharmacist for guidance based on current health condition. Kimberly Hotz, PharmD
Changes in body composition are seen with aging. In general terms, aging males are prone to loss of muscle mass and a gain in fat mass, especially in the form of visceral or central fat. An epidemiological study of community dwelling men aged between 24 and 85 years has confirmed that total and free testosterone levels are inversely correlated with waist circumference and that testosterone levels are specifically related to this measure of central obesity rather than general obesity (Svartberg, von Muhlen, Sundsfjord et al 2004). Prospective studies show that testosterone levels predict future development of central obesity (Khaw and Barrett-Connor 1992; Tsai et al 2000). Reductions in free testosterone also correlate with age related declines in fat free mass (muscle mass) and muscle strength (Baumgartner et al 1999; Roy et al 2002). Studies in hypogonadal men confirm an increase in fat mass and decrease in fat free mass versus comparable eugonadal men (Katznelson et al 1998). Taken together, the epidemiological data suggest that a hypogonadal state promotes loss of muscle mass and a gain in fat mass, particularly visceral fat and therefore mimics the changes of ‘normal’ aging.