Starting treatment for low testosterone can be an intimidating time, especially if you do not know anyone that has gone through it. Because it is not something that you have likely experienced before it can be difficult to know where to start and who you should see for help with your low T.
One great thing is that there are many options for healthcare providers that can help and you have the opportunity to make the choice that is best for you. The more you know about the whole process the less stressful it becomes.
Keep reading to learn more about the different care providers you can work with for low testosterone, when to see a doctor, and what the process of the first visit and treatment will be like.
What Testosterone Does
Understanding what testosterone does in the body is vital for recognizing signs and symptoms that let you know something might be off. Testosterone is the primary sex hormone in men and is created by the testicles. It is also created in small amounts in women by the adrenal glands.
Testosterone’s role in men is largely sexual functioning including regulating the sex drive, supporting the formation of sperm, and assisting in the erection of the penis. Other roles of testosterone outside of the reproductive system include muscle growth and strength, bone health, fat distribution, and the production of red blood cells.
Overall, testosterone plays a large role in the male and female body and when the hormone level is not balanced it can cause problems.
The first doctor that you can see for low testosterone is an endocrinologist. An endocrinologist is a medical doctor that specializes in the study of glands and hormones. Because these endocrinologists have such specialized training they are able to effectively address the needs of someone with low testosterone.
The largest benefit of endocrinologists is that they have the expertise necessary to give well created treatment plans for hormone therapy. Some of the cons to endocrinologists are that they can be expensive, especially without insurance, and they are often very busy and difficult to get an appointment with.
The training of an endocrinologist is very extensive, which is what prepares them so well to care for patients. Their training can range from 13 to 17 years based on the path they choose. Generally they have a 4 year undergraduate degree, a 4 year medical degree, a 3-7 year medical residency training, and a 1-3 year fellowship training to specialize in endocrinology. Their residency is a hands on training under a board certified doctor. In the case of an endocrinologist that you would see for low testosterone, they likely have a residency in internal medicine or family medicine that focuses on conditions in the adult patient. After that their fellowship is under an endocrinology specialist where they focus only on endocrinology patients.
Scope of Practice
The scope of practice refers to what type of patients a doctor sees and what they are able to do for those patients. An endocrinologist is typically focused on treating adult patients with conditions related to malfunction of the hormones and glands. Some things they may see in their office is diabetes, low cortisol levels, and low testosterone. They focus on procedures and treatments regarding hormone conditions including surgery, hormone replacement therapy, and more.
Primary Care Provider
Your primary care provider is the doctor or advanced practice provider that you see for your yearly check ups. They too can help you with your low testosterone and are likely the first stop when you recognize you may have something wrong. Because you already have a relationship with this provider it can be very helpful in getting a quick appointment, having someone know what you are usually like, and help you feel more comfortable discussing a sensitive topic.
One con to having your primary care provider create a hormone replacement therapy treatment plan is that they may not have the most in depth knowledge of the process. Because they see so many types of patients and conditions they may not be as familiar with hormone replacement therapy. Of course this varies from provider to provider so always talk to them to see if it is something they have done before and if they are comfortable with it.
The training of a family medicine or internal medicine doctor is very similar to that of an endocrinologist minus the fellowship. Family medicine doctors have the same 4 year undergraduate degree, 4 years of medical school, and a residency in family medicine or internal medicine. After that they could have completed a fellowship in something they are especially interested in, however it is most likely that they did not complete a fellowship. This is still a very extensive training that takes years to complete. In regards to training in hormone replacement they likely were taught about it in various courses, however it was likely not a large focus of their training.
Scope of Practice
A primary care provider can have a varying scope of practice. If their residency was in internal medicine their patients are adults with both complex and acute conditions. They can work in a clinic or in the hospital treating patients. A family medicine doctor is able to see patients of all ages from birth to death. They also treat long term and short term conditions of all systems of the body, including the endocrine system. If these doctors feel that a condition needs the attention of a specialist they can refer them to someone that is better specialized to treat their condition.
Elite HRT is another option of who you can see for low testosterone. Elite HRT is an in-person and telemedicine service that focuses on creating individualized treatment plans for hormone replacement therapy. Telemedicine offers you the chance to have a private call with a health care provider on your phone, tablet, laptop, or other electronic device.
Elite HRT specializes in hormone replacement therapy, so we have the up to date knowledge and techniques to offer a personalized plan just for you and your needs. After you have a visit with your primary care doctor and they identify a need for hormone replacement therapy you can work with Elite HRT to do the rest.
When To See a Doctor
Deciding when to see a doctor can be difficult when you are not quite sure what you are looking for. When it comes to low testosterone you may begin to notice the following physical symptoms: hair loss, loss of muscle mass, difficulty achieving an erection, and increased body fat. You may also notice other changes such as a low sex drive, mood changes, lack of energy, and a low semen count of tested.
If you notice any of these symptoms you should consider going to see your doctor. In addition, if there is ever anything that you feel unsure about you should always consult your doctor first.
The First Visit
Once you have chosen your care provider you will schedule your first visit, usually with your primary care provider. You will likely begin by discussing your symptoms that you have noticed and letting them know your concerns. They will probably ask you follow up questions about your health history and any related questions.
Next may come a physical exam to determine if any other clues can be collected from your physical body.
Finally, they may recommend that you get a hormone level test. This can come in the form of a blood, urine, or saliva test to measure the amount of testosterone and other related hormones that are in the body. From these findings they can decide if hormone therapy may be a good option for you or if other things could help.
Testosterone Treatment and Management
If the hormone test comes back saying that you have low testosterone you will likely begin on a testosterone replacement. They may also prescribe you estrogen blockers and/ or human chorionic gonadotropin to take alongside the testosterone to reduce side effects and potentiate effects.
As the treatment goes on there will be continued hormone level tests to ensure the dosage is the right amount for you. Ensuring that you attend follow up appointments and take the medications as prescribed is vital to your treatment’s success.
So, the truth is there is no simple answer to what kind of doctor you should see for low testosterone. There are many options for you to choose from and with the help of your healthcare provider you can make the best choice as to who can best help you with your low testosterone needs.