Dr Chris Airey
Men who have low testosterone levels can get prescribed a treatment known as testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). This is often given as an injection although it can be found as a gel, patch, or pellet. It can improve symptoms associated with low testosterone and quality of life.
To be prescribed testosterone replacement therapy, you must have low testosterone levels, which could be caused by health conditions, diet, or stress. You will need to have a TRT blood test that can check testosterone and other hormone levels associated with testosterone production.
If you are wondering how to get prescribed testosterone and what symptoms are associated with a testosterone deficiency, keep reading to find out everything you need to know about testosterone treatment.
What Is Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT)?
Testosterone is an important hormone that is responsible for many different processes in the body, especially for men. This includes sexual libido, fat distribution, bone density, the formation of red blood cells, and muscle mass. If you have testosterone deficiency, this can negatively impact your health and well-being.
Testosterone replacement therapy, as the name suggests, is a type of treatment that increases testosterone levels through the administration of testosterone. It is used in men who cannot produce healthy amounts of the hormone and is often a long-term treatment. TRT should only be prescribed if you have low testosterone, as too much testosterone can actually have adverse effects.
The treatment is used to restore your testosterone levels to normal, helping combat the symptoms of low testosterone. How long you need testosterone replacement therapy will depend on why your body is not producing enough testosterone.
There are a range of administration routes for testosterone treatment, such as topical and intramuscular. Testosterone gel can be rubbed into the skin and absorbed into the bloodstream. You can also get testosterone through an injection, which is released slowly meaning you only need to administer it every couple of weeks. Testosterone therapy can also be prescribed in patches, which are applied and left in place all day.
Symptoms of Low Testosterone
If you think you have low testosterone, you should look out for symptoms like:
- low libido (sex drive)
- low sperm count, this may show on fertility tests or you may notice that you are struggling to conceive
- trouble getting or maintaining an erection, which can also be a sign of erectile dysfunction
- loss of body hair
- hot flushes
- stubborn body fat that seems to be worsening or staying the same despite having a balanced diet and exercise regime in place
- a reduction in the size of your testicles
- changes in mood, such as anxiety, depression, or poor self-esteem
These symptoms all have a negative effect on your life and could cause issues in your relationships, especially if you are trying to get pregnant. If you are trying to lose weight and bulk up, testosterone deficiency can cause slow or no progress, which can be extremely frustrating.
If you notice any of the above symptoms, even if it’s just one, you should speak to a doctor. They can check whether your testosterone levels are low or if there is another reason for your symptoms.
Routes to TRT in the UK
The 2 main routes to testosterone replacement therapy in the UK are private clinics or through the NHS. Either way, they will carry out a blood test to make sure you have low testosterone levels and that the treatment is safe and suitable for you. In the UK, TRT is only available with a prescription, from a qualified GP or clinician.
Many private clinics offer testosterone replacement therapy at a cost. This can be a quicker way of getting TRT than waiting for a doctor’s appointment, but you will need the budget for private healthcare costs. You will also need to find a private clinic nearby that specialises in TRT, otherwise, you may have to travel. Some private clinics may also offer home test kits, which involve doing a finger prick blood sample which will be tested at their labs.
If you have any of the symptoms listed earlier in this article, you can make an appointment with your GP. Explain your symptoms and ask for a low testosterone test, as your GP may want to look down other avenues first. If you are found to have low testosterone levels, you will be referred to a specialist known as an endocrinologist to discuss testosterone replacement treatment options.
The only problem you may face is waiting several weeks or months for an initial consultation. Once you visit the endocrinologist, they will perform further tests to find out why your testosterone levels are low and whether you should have TRT. They will check if you have a condition which causes insufficient testosterone production or if it’s caused by a lifestyle factor, such as poor diet or obesity.
Other Ways of Receiving TRT
Private clinics and the NHS are the safest and easiest ways to get testosterone replacement therapy but there are also other ways to get treatment. Online pharmacies are on the rise and are a great way to access healthcare. You can also look at getting TRT yourself, but this could be dangerous and is not recommended.
An online pharmacy is a regulated pharmacy with online doctors that can prescribe treatments just like the NHS or private clinics. The only difference is that you do not need to see anyone in person and can order treatment from the comfort of your own home. Depending on the online pharmacy, you may need to prove that you have low testosterone levels by obtaining a blood test from your GP or doing an at-home test.
Some online pharmacies may sell testosterone home test kits, which will be sent to a lab and the results viewed by a doctor. If TRT is suitable for you, an online pharmacy can prescribe the treatment and send it to your home in discreet packaging. This may be a cheaper option than attending a private clinic, as you won’t need to pay for consultations.
Getting It Yourself
In the UK, it is only legal to get TRT with a prescription from a qualified doctor. You can get TRT yourself by doing a home-test kit, but you will still need to get the treatment prescribed with proof of your low testosterone levels. You should not purchase TRT sold on the internet that is not prescribed.
This type of TRT is unregulated and it may not be safe to use. It may not even contain testosterone or may contain high levels that could negatively impact your health. You should not use TRT unless you have low testosterone.
Benefits of TRT
Testosterone replacement therapy is beneficial for those who have testosterone deficiency and are experiencing symptoms of low testosterone. Some of the benefits of TRT include:
- restored libido
- improvement in lean muscle mass
- increased bone density and strength
- improvement in body fat distribution
- better mental health and wellbeing
- improvement in the quality of erections
- increased energy levels
- better brain function and ability
- decreased risk of diabetes
- improvement in strength
- better cardiovascular health
These benefits can have a positive impact on your daily life, relationships, and confidence. TRT can also benefit those looking to get stronger and build muscle whilst losing weight.
Risks of TRT
The most common side effects of testosterone replacement therapy are itching, irritation, or a rash at the injection site. There are some rare risks of TRT, which is why you should only be using it if you have clinically low testosterone levels. There is an increased risk of stroke or heart attack, but your doctor can monitor you whilst using TRT.
Some medical conditions can be made worse by TRT, such as:
- any condition which can cause blood clots
- sleep apnoea, a condition where you stop breathing in your sleep
- prostate cancer, many doctors will recommend being screened for prostate cancer before commencing treatment
- benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), a condition which makes it hard to urinate
- congestive heart failure
As there are risks of TRT, especially if you have certain medical conditions, you can see why it’s important to be screened by a doctor before taking it. A doctor can ensure that TRT is suitable for your medical background so it won’t worsen any pre-existing medical conditions.
Testosterone Replacement vs Performance Enhancing Steroids
Testosterone replacement therapy is not the same as performance-enhancing steroids that are used by bodybuilders or athletes. Performance-enhancing steroids may contain chemicals that act just like testosterone or may contain testosterone itself, but it is not made to treat testosterone deficiency.
Instead, performance-enhancing steroids are used even in people with normal testosterone levels and are illegal. The amount of testosterone or other chemicals in these steroids is not known and tends to be at a much higher dose than TRT, which is why they boost muscle building so quickly (and unsafely).
The higher the dose of testosterone, especially when you already have normal testosterone levels, the more risk of serious side effects like a heart attack or stroke.
How to Get a Clinical Diagnosis of Low Testosterone
To get a clinical diagnosis of low testosterone, you need to speak to a doctor either through the NHS or via a private clinic. A doctor will look to identify the cause of low testosterone and will perform a blood test to check your testosterone levels. They may need to take more than one, just to confirm whether low testosterone is the culprit for your symptoms.
A TRT blood test is taken in the morning when testosterone is at its highest. A healthy level of testosterone in the blood can range from 300 to 1000 ng/dL (nanograms per deciliter). The test will check for testosterone levels, as well as other important hormones like gonadotropin-releasing hormone and luteinizing hormone. Both of these hormones stimulate testosterone production, so if they are low, this could be the cause of low testosterone.
A doctor will also perform a physical examination and discuss your symptoms. They may send you for further tests to exclude tumours or infections, such as an ultrasound or MRI. If you get a clinical diagnosis of testosterone deficiency, you will be prescribed testosterone replacement therapy and may receive other treatments depending on the cause.
You will be regularly monitored to make sure TRT is working as it should and that the dose of TRT is still correct for your testosterone levels. You should seek medical advice if you notice any side effects, such as soreness in the breast area or acne.
Places to Get TRT Treatment in the UK
Getting TRT treatment in the UK is easy and accessible. You can choose to seek help through the NHS, by speaking to your GP and starting the process with blood tests. This will tell you if you have a hormone imbalance and need hormone therapy, or whether your testosterone is in the normal range. You may also seek out a private clinic that specialises in TRT for men, which may be slightly quicker but you will need to pay for this. Some online pharmacies in the UK also offer TRT and low testosterone home test kits, so you can check for yourself if there is a hormone deficiency.
However you decide to get TRT in the UK, make sure you choose a regulated doctor or pharmacy and have the treatment prescribed to you. TRT is a great treatment option for men who have low testosterone levels and are struggling to improve them naturally.