Breaking down testosterone replacement therapy
Testosterone replacement therapy -- some are calling it the fountain of youth and since 2006 prescriptions for the drug have doubled. It's a procedure that restores testosterone levels in older men to that of their 20-year-old selves. But can this really be a miracle drug for men's health?
You may have seen the ads on television or in the sports section of the local newspaper. Its sales pitch seems more like every man's wish -- to build muscle, trim fat, and increase their sex drive.
Testosterone replacement therapy, or TRT, targets men from their 30s to their 70s and beyond. But don't let the name fool you -- it's steroids.
"Most people hear anabolic steroids and run for the hills, but it's an anabolic steroid that our own body produces, that our own body recognizes as natural," says Dr. Charles Arakaki, an MD at the Universal Men's Clinic. "That's what we give you here in the clinic, what our own body produces."
Dr. Arakaki works at the Universal Men's Clinic in Ala Moana. It's the state's only medical clinic that focuses exclusively on men's health. He says low testosterone is a common condition seen in older men. It's called Andropause, the equivalent of menopause in women.
"We do it over time where as women do it in a sudden 1-2 year period known as menopause," says Dr. Arakaki.
Dr. Arakaki tells us TRT uses prescription steroids to boost low testosterone levels, but far differently than the ways steroids are abused on the street.
"We're not here building Arnold Schwarzenegger or anything like that, were here just to make you feel better," says Dr. Arakaki."We replace the testosterone to the level where you start to feel results, without running into the side effects of testosterone."
To reach an optimum level clients undergo strict blood monitoring. If low testosterone is present, Dr. Arakaki says they'll prescribe a weekly shot or a daily rub on cream. Both can get men back to the levels of a healthy 20-year-old, or about 900-ng/dL.
Dr. Arakaki says there's currently no scale of how much testosterone a man's body should produce by age group. There's currently only one range, from the average level of a 70-year-old (350 ng/dL) to a high level 20-year-old (1200 ng/dL). Dr. Arakaki says 900-ng/dL is the target goal.
"By targeting that goal, we do get a lot of the benefits of testosterone without all the side effects," says Dr. Arakaki.
"Was a real eye opener for me," says Kai Kamaka, a former MMA fighter and current highschool wrestling and football coach.
Kai Kamaka's been on TRT for six-weeks. The 40-year-old MMA instructor noticed he was losing energy and had a hard time recovering from exercise.
"One workout, I'd be down three days," says Kamaka.
After three weeks Kamaka can work-out every day and he's sleeping better, too.
"I was staying up late at night and getting up early in the morning, now I can sleep right through," says Kamaka. "I felt a big difference as I get up in my age and the stuff now, but with the treatment and knowing what's going on in my body has really changed my process and my lifestyle."
However, there are side effects -- developing breasts, shrinking testicles, and aggressive behavior are just a few. Dr. Arakaki says side effects happen to less than 1 percent of his 3,000 clients, but overdosing would increase the risk.
"Previous guys who were doing it in the wrong way their levels would be in the thousands and thousands, so they'd experience all of these things," says Dr. Arakaki.
Dr. Arakaki says stick to the program and the positives outweigh the negatives.
"You can stay on this therapy for as long as you desire, as long as its done properly under the correct monitoring," says Arakaki.
Several local independent urologists who spoke to KITV all echoed Dr. Arakaki's statements. A fourth specialist we spoke to says he recommends the treatment as well but only to those who really need it because the treatment can decrease men's sperm count which can lead to infertility.
Universal Men's Clinic does not treat any patients under the age of 30.
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