Lab work at Apex Men's Health. (Photo: Meredith Mitchell, THV11)
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - With promises like more energy and a better sex life, testosterone-replacement therapy is more popular than ever.
Prescriptions for "T" in shots, gels, patches and pellets have skyrocketed. In 2011 alone, it was a $1.6 billion business with several "T" clinics sprouting up.
"The pharmaceutical companies have really invested quite a bit of money. When there's more money, more advertising, there's more awareness," explained Jeremy Warford with Apex Men's Health. "So, people are going to their doctor now and saying could I be low T?"
But is this risky business for men?
Dr. Warford manages Apex Men's Health, a testosterone therapy center in West Little Rock, and says men come to him to slow the aging process.
"Guys generally have low energy and they can't perform as well when their levels are low," Warford said, explaining that many patients complain of feeling sluggish.
In order to be a candidate, a lab test must confirm that a patient's hormone level has slumped to an abnormal number.
"With the shot I just feel more energized and just feel better," said Troy Sanders, a 70-year-old patient who has received testosterone therapy.
"Someone's overall sense of well being, their energy level improves, depression can improve, sleep can improve," Warford said. "There's a host of benefits for someone who truly is low."
But, there is some question as to how safe testosterone therapy is for older men.
A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests the hormone could be bad for men with a history of heart disease.
Dr. Warford says testosterone therapy can carry risks as well as benefits, explaining that as testosterone breaks down in the body, it's converted to estrogen. This change can trigger health problems in some patients.
"There is an increased clot rate for those people," Warford said. "That can be clots anywhere. In the legs, lungs, but also heart attack and stroke."
But for patients like Sanders, the therapy has been successful.
"On a scale from one to ten, I'd probably give it a six or seven," he said.
"Everyone's a little bit different, but some people are saying, man this is life changing and some people are saying yeah I feel better and everywhere in between."
Dr. Warford said after the age of 30, men's levels may drop one to two percent a year as they age, but in healthy men that number tends to be lower.