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Volume 17, Issue 2 (March 2015) 17, 177–186; 10.4103/1008-682X.143317

Diagnosis and management of testosterone deficiency

James A McBride, Culley C Carson, Robert M Coward

Department of Urology, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, NC, USA

Correspondence: Dr. RM Coward (mcoward@med.unc.edu)



Testosterone supplementation therapy (TST) use has dramatically increased over the past decade, due to the availability of newer agents, aggressive marketing, and an increasing incidence of testosterone deficiency (TD). Despite the increase in TST, a degree of ambiguity remains as to the exact diagnostic criteria of TD, and administration and monitoring of TST. One explanation for this phenomenon is the complex role testosterone plays in multiple physiologic pathways. Numerous medical co-morbidities and medications can alter testosterone levels resulting in a wide range of nonspecific clinical signs and symptoms of TD. The diagnosis is also challenging due to the lack of a definitive serum total testosterone level that reliably correlates with symptoms. This observation is particularly true in the aging male and is exacerbated by inconsistencies between different laboratory assays. Several prominent medical societies have developed guideline statements to clarify the diagnosis, but they differ from each other and with expert opinion in several ways. Aside from diagnostic dilemmas, there are numerous subtle advantages and disadvantages of the various testosterone agents to appreciate. The available TST agents have changed significantly over the past decade similar to the trends in the diagnosis of TD. Therefore, as the usage of TST increases, clinicians will be challenged to maintain an up-to-date understanding of TD and TST. The purpose of this review is to provide a clear description of the current strategies for diagnosis and management of TD.

Keywords: androgens; erectile dysfunction; hormones; hypogonadism; testosterone

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