Take Charge of Your Health: Vanderbilt Offers Guidance for Men’s Health Month

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by: John C. Richier, M.D.

Dr. Richier is a urologist at Vanderbilt Integrated Urology in Tullahoma, Tennessee.

June is Men’s Health Awareness Month. Men are 24% less likely to seek medical care, compared to women, which is why it is important to highlight men’s health issues, symptoms and interventions particularly when discussing reproductive health and hormone imbalances that could impact daily life. This can include erectile dysfunction (ED), low testosterone levels and infertility. These issues can be interconnected in a number of ways and require a holistic
approach to diagnose and treat them properly.

Testosterone, a naturally occurring hormone that is responsible for the development of male sexual characteristics, impacts sex drive and can cause energy fluctuations, weight gain, depression and more. The production of testosterone starts to increase significantly during puberty and begins to dip after the age of 30. Common side effects of low levels of testosterone
are ED, low libido and infertility. ED refers to a male’s inability to get and maintain an erection which can result from the natural aging process or as a symptom of another health problem. While low testosterone can contribute to ED symptoms, it may also be the result of decreased blood flow to the genital arteries. ED in conjunction with low libido can make it difficult to conceive.

Deficient testosterone levels can also be the cause of infertility in males and is considered a
disease of the reproductive system. This is because testosterone levels directly correlate to
sperm count. A low sperm count does not mean conception is impossible, but it does
significantly decrease the likelihood. Infertility can also be intentionally achieved through a
process called sterilization via a procedure known as a vasectomy. A vasectomy is a common and safe procedure that is the most effective form of male birth control offered today.

Treatment options are available to improve symptoms of ED and infertility, including surgery, antibiotics, medication and supplementation also known as Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRP). Surgery is only utilized if infertility is caused by the widening of the veins in the scrotum, or a blockage in the tubes that carry sperm. Antibiotics are used to treat any infections discovered in the reproductive organs while other medications can treat symptoms associated with ED. Lastly, TRP is any natural or artificially produced substance that raises testosterone levels and could be used as a potential treatment option for low testosterone levels. The treatment involves an injection into a muscle that is given every two to four weeks under the supervision of your doctor.

While reproductive health concerns and hormone imbalances are often perceived as female
conditions, they occur in men too. This Men’s Health Awareness Month, be sure to
communicate with your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms and discuss
treatment options that are best for you and your lifestyle.

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