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Naperville resident feels younger with hormone therapy

Naperville resident John Freiburger 48 began hormone therapy replace testosterone loss after severe bout with Epstein-Barr virus several years ago.

Naperville resident John Freiburger, 48, began hormone therapy to replace testosterone loss after a severe bout with the Epstein-Barr virus several years ago. The improvements have made the difference. | Submitted

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The risks

Testosterone therapy has various risks. For example, testosterone therapy may:

Contribute to sleep apnea — a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts.

Cause your body to make too many red blood cells (polycythemia), which can increase the risk of heart disease.

Cause acne or other skin reactions.

Stimulate noncancerous growth of the prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia) and possibly stimulate growth of existing prostate cancer.

Enlarge breasts.

Limit sperm production or cause testicle shrinkage.

Source: Mayo Clinic

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Updated: January 20, 2013 6:11AM

A treatment to reverse the effects of aging? Naperville resident John Freiburger thinks so. The 48-year-old began hormone therapy to replace testosterone loss after a severe bout with the Epstein-Barr virus several years ago. The improvements have convinced him the treatment is worth seeking.

“It increased my energy level and my ability to concentrate,” Freiburger says. “It’s been beneficial to my sexual health. And I’ve put on muscle.”

Male hormone-replacement therapy is used to treat symptoms caused by reduced testosterone production, a common condition among older men. Symptoms such as: depression and irritability, low libido and erectile dysfunction, lack of focus, and exercise becoming ineffective at controlling weight and building muscle.

The Mayo Clinic notes testosterone production levels drop by 1 percent each year after the age of 30. This explains why hormone therapy is often seen as an anti-aging treatment.

Until recently, doctors have discouraged many patients from getting testosterone therapy because of the perceived increased risk of prostate cancer.

Dr. Paul Savage, chief medical director at Ageology in Chicago, dismisses this misconception.

“Testosterone doesn’t cause prostate cancer,” Savage said. “However, low testosterone does increase the risk of death not only from heart disease but all causes.”

A recent study by German endocrinologists showed that hormone-replacement therapy among men improved symptoms of metabolic syndrome — a syndrome that increases the risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, among other complications.

But while the use of this therapy is on the rise, Savage notes many men with lowered hormone levels still go untreated.

“Only about 5 percent of men know about it and seek treatment for it, while an estimated 40 percent of men will suffer lowered testosterone levels at some point in their life,” he explains.

Savage’s typical patient is in his 50s, although he has seen men seeking testosterone replacement as young as in their mid-20s.

Freiburger attests to the improvements he sees from the hormones.

“When the testosterone starts wearing off after three to four months, my energy level decreases and my ability to concentrate decreases,” he says. “But within a day or two of receiving the dose of testosterone, I feel like a different person.”

Bioidential hormone therapy, the FDA-approved pharmaceutical version of the human hormone, is commonly marketed in gel form. But Savage recommends against this type because of the potential to transfer it to others. Instead, his patients most often receive the therapy in the form of patches, self-administered injections or pellet implants.

The only time he recommends against testosterone replacement is for men who have known, but untreated, prostate cancer. Otherwise Savage sees many benefits for his patients undergoing the therapy.

“Testosterone is a vital component to longevity and health,” he says.

Both Freiburger and Savage note the importance of men seeking treatment through a professional well versed in the use of therapeutic testosterone replacement. The levels of free testosterone need to be regularly monitored, and PSA tests given quarterly (a blood test measuring the level of prostate-specific antigens).

“Find a doctor who specializes in age-management medicine,” Freiburger says. “One who will look at it in a holistic way and manage it on a regular basis.”

He emphasizes hormone therapy is only a part of what he does for his health. Freiburger also works at eating the right foods, exercising regularly (especially weight lifting), and keeping a good sleep schedule. He believes all of these have contributed to his overall health and helped increase his testosterone levels.

Once on hormone therapy, a patient will have to continue with it for the rest of his life, as the body reacts to the therapy by signaling to slow or shut down natural production of the hormone. But where production already has dropped, the therapy can be life-altering (even if it doesn’t actually turn back time).

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