Testosterone replacement therapy gel is a topical form of treatment primarily used in men to help raise low testosterone levels.
The gel contains testosterone medication that is absorbed through the skin when applied. By delivering testosterone transdermally in daily doses, testosterone gel helps restore normal testosterone levels in hypogonadal men.
Popular brand name testosterone gels include Androgel, Testim, Fortesta, and Vogelxo. These are prescription treatments that come in packets or pump bottles to be applied to the upper arms, shoulders, or abdomen once a day. The testosterone medication gradually absorbs into the bloodstream through the skin to provide the body with supplemental testosterone throughout the day.
How Testosterone Replacement Therapy Gel Works
Testosterone gels and creams provide hormone replacement through transdermal delivery. When applied and absorbed through the skin’s surface, the testosterone enters the bloodstream and travels to receptors throughout the body. This mimics the body’s natural production and regulation of testosterone.
Different formulations of testosterone medication are specially designed for optimal absorption. Androgel and Testim use a hydroalcoholic formula, while Fortesta and Axiron are in a permeation-enhanced ethanol formula. This allows the testosterone to properly penetrate the skin’s surface when applied topically.
The gels come in packets or pumps with an applicator to measure out the prescribed dosage amount. Patients are instructed to apply the testosterone gel once daily, typically in the morning, based on their doctor’s dosage recommendations. This provides a steady daily introduction of supplemental testosterone the body can utilize as needed.
Candidates for Testosterone Replacement Therapy
Testosterone replacement in gel form may be an option for men with clinically low testosterone levels, also referred to as low T or hypogonadism. This can occur due to normal aging, injury or infection of the testes, pituitary disorders, inflammatory conditions, or other medical conditions.
Symptoms that may indicate low T and warrant having testosterone levels evaluated include low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, reduced muscle mass, increased body fat, fatigue, mood changes, or difficulty concentrating. A simple blood test can determine if a man’s circulating testosterone level is lower than the normal range.
If low testosterone is confirmed, testosterone replacement therapy can help restore testosterone to normal levels and alleviate related symptoms. Gel provides customizable daily dosing that mimics the body’s natural testosterone production.
Applying and Using TRT Gel
It’s important to properly apply testosterone gel as directed to receive the full benefits of treatment. The gel should be applied once daily, ideally in the morning, to clean dry skin on the upper arms, shoulders, or abdomen. These areas provide effective absorption over a large surface area.
The prescribed dosage amount will come in single use packets or be measured out with a pump. Patients should wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after applying. This prevents accidental transference of testosterone gel residue to others through skin contact, which could adversely impact them.
Testosterone gel application should be followed by letting the area dry prior to dressing or showering. Swimming or bathing should also be avoided for several hours after applying gel, as this can wash off the medication before it fully absorbs. Proper administration and skin contact time is key for testosterone to properly enter the bloodstream.
Monitoring and Adjusting TRT Gel Dosage
Patients using testosterone gel will need periodic blood work to ensure testosterone levels stay in the normal range. Doctors may adjust the daily dosage amount based on the blood test results and the patient’s symptom response.
The goal is to provide the lowest effective dosage of testosterone needed to reach normal circulating testosterone levels in the patient’s system. Too high of a dose can increase the risk of side effects. Finding the optimal dosage may take some trial and error over weeks or months.
Most men respond to testosterone gel application once every 24 hours. However, some may need twice daily dosing for optimal testosterone coverage throughout the day. Ongoing communication with a doctor is important to fine tune the testosterone replacement regimen.
Potential Benefits of Testosterone Replacement Therapy
When used properly under medical supervision, testosterone replacement therapy can provide several benefits for hypogonadal men:
- Increased energy and sex drive
- Improved mood, mental focus, and cognitive function
- More lean muscle mass and strength
- Decreased body fat and increased bone density
- Better erections and sexual performance
- Improved sleep quality
- Increased motivation and sense of vitality
By restoring testosterone levels back to an optimal range, many men find the gel therapy improves quality of life and alleviates difficult hypogonadism symptoms.
Potential Side Effects and Risks
As with any medication, there are some potential side effects and risks associated with testosterone gel therapy:
- Skin irritation, rash, or redness may occur at the application site
- Increased risk of prostate enlargement and prostate cancer is possible
- Elevated red blood cell count, potentially increasing risk of heart attack or stroke
- Testicular atrophy and reduced sperm production affecting fertility
- Potential for abuse if used inappropriately at higher than prescribed dosages
- Cautious use required in those with severe heart, liver, or kidney disease
To minimize risks, patients should use the lowest effective dose, get periodic bloodwork to monitor hormone levels, and discuss any concerns or new medical issues with their doctor promptly.
Cost and Insurance Coverage
The costs of testosterone gel will depend on the specific brand and dosage amount prescribed. On average, the gel may average at $600 for a 15 days to one month supply depending on the dosage.
While most insurance plans cover the most common version of Androgel at a co-pay of $32.50-$50.00, many of them have restrictions.
Compounded testosterone gel formulas made by specialty pharmacies are sometimes prescribed, but may not be covered by insurance. Talk to your doctor and insurance provider about your best options to make the costs affordable.
Process of Obtaining a Prescription for Testosterone Gel Therapy
The first step is to schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor or an endocrinologist to get your testosterone levels checked. This involves a simple blood test to measure your current testosterone levels.
If your testosterone levels come back lower than the normal range for your age group, your doctor will discuss treatment options with you. This may include lifestyle changes, medications, or testosterone replacement therapy.
If you and your doctor decide testosterone gel is an appropriate option, your doctor will write you a prescription for a specific brand and dosage amount. Common prescriptions are for single-use packets or pump bottles lasting around 30 days.
Before submitting the prescription, your doctor may need to obtain pre-authorization or submit documentation to your health insurance provider showing your low testosterone diagnosis. This ensures the prescription therapy will be covered under your policy.
Take the written prescription to your local pharmacy. The pharmacy will fill the prescription and provide counseling on how to properly use the gel. You may also need to sign disclosures regarding risks.
Expect to go back to your doctor’s office periodically for follow-up bloodwork to monitor your testosterone levels and determine if any dosage adjustments are needed. Ongoing prescriptions can be provided based on your response and blood test results.
The whole process may take several office visits over weeks or months to confirm the low T diagnosis, try lifestyle changes, evaluate if you are a candidate for testosterone gel, obtain insurance approvals, and dial in the appropriate dosage. Be patient and communicate regularly with your doctor throughout the process.
Are There Any Lifestyle Changes That I Can Try Before Considering Testosterone Gel Therapy?
Yes, there are some lifestyle changes and natural remedies that may help boost your testosterone levels before considering testosterone replacement therapy:
Exercise and lift weights regularly – Strength training can stimulate testosterone production. Aim for at least 30 minutes per day.
Reduce stress – Chronic stress can decrease testosterone. Try meditation, yoga, or other relaxation techniques.
Get enough sleep – Lack of sleep is linked to lower testosterone. Aim for 7-8 hours per night.
Optimize vitamin D levels – Low vitamin D is associated with low testosterone. Take a supplement or get moderate sun exposure.
Improve diet – Eat foods like oysters, fortified cereals, zinc, and magnesium. Avoid processed foods.
Lose weight if overweight – Excess weight can cause decreases in testosterone. Losing weight may help.
Limit alcohol and drug use – Chronic alcohol abuse and opioid drugs can suppress testosterone.
Stop smoking – Smoking has been tied to reductions in testosterone levels.
Manage chronic conditions – Diabetes, obesity, and other diseases are associated with low testosterone.
If you try these lifestyle changes for 2-3 months and still have persistent low T symptoms, then testosterone replacement therapy may be warranted. But adopting some of these habits can help optimize your natural testosterone as an initial step.
Additional Tips and Considerations for TRT Gel
Here are some additional details about testosterone replacement therapy gel that I didn’t already cover:
There are généric versions available of some brands like Androgel and Testim, which can lower costs. The FDA ensures generics have the same active ingredients.
Some compounding pharmacies can customize testosterone gel formulas, but insurance may not cover these. Compounded gels also lack FDA regulation.
If traveling, the gel packets or bottles can be kept at room temperature up to 90 days. Try to keep from extreme heat or freezing.
It’s important to stick closely to your prescribed dosage and application schedule. Taking more gel than directed does not increase effects.
Rarely, testosterone gel can trigger increased red blood cell production causing polycythemia. Blood donation may help reduce this risk.
Use only water to wash skin where applying the gel, as soaps and alcohol can interfere with absorption.
Make sure family members are aware of the gel use so they can avoid contact if any gets on clothing or furniture.
Consider wearing a t-shirt at night to cover application sites so gel doesn’t rub off on partners or children.
Report any adverse reactions like swelling, dizziness, or breathing issues as rare allergic reactions are possible.
Deciding if Testosterone Replacement Is Right for You
If you’re experiencing symptoms of low testosterone, have a discussion with your healthcare provider about whether testosterone replacement therapy is appropriate. Consider your health history, risk factors, and treatment goals to determine if benefits are likely to outweigh any potential side effects.
Be prepared to commit to ongoing blood work monitoring and dose adjustments. Used properly under medical supervision, testosterone replacement gel may help restore testosterone levels and relieve difficult hypogonadism symptoms. But results take time, so patience and realistic expectations are important.
Schedule a no-obligation call with Physicians Rejuvenation Centers today to learn more about your options, we’ll be happy to assist you with all your questions.