Middle-aged men seeking to restore their energy and sex drive are flocking to South Florida clinics promising renewed vigor through testosterone, the male sex hormone.
Influenced by an abundance of television commercials, Internet ads and billboards asking if they have “Low-T,” many say they had been depressed about the aging process and were seeking a way to regain the stamina they miss from their youth.
They say the hormone has revived their endurance and virility, although some doctors caution that extra testosterone can have side effects and could cause long-term problems that have not yet been thoroughly studied.
Such warnings have not deterred enthusiasts such as Skip Guarniere, a Delray Beach fitness trainer, who believes his weekly injection makes him lively and fit.
A year ago, Guarniere said, he had lost his libido, was unable to sleep and felt listless. He had his testosterone checked at Core Institute, an anti-aging clinic in Delray Beach.
His level was 190, below the 300 to 1,200 range doctors consider ideal. Guarniere said he began to sleep better and get his energy back after just a few weeks of injections, administered by his mother, a nurse.
Men taking testosterone under a doctor’s supervision say they are different from athletes and bodybuilders who use anabolic steroids, a synthetic form of testosterone whose non-medical use is illegal and banned by major sports bodies.
Several fraudulent clinics have been shut down over the past few years, including a Deerfield Beach center that provided steroids to eight Broward sheriff’s deputies.
“I’m not trying to be Arnold Schwarzenegger,” said Guarniere, a divorced father of two. “I just want to be normal and healthy.”
Men’s production of testosterone — needed for bone strength, muscle mass and sperm production — begins a gradual ebb around age 40. This decline, often called “andropause,” can cause depression, night sweats and fatigue, symptoms similar to women’s menopause.
Concern about the symptoms of aging used to be the province of women, some of whom get plastic surgery, take hormone supplements and try Pilates to maintain their good looks. But now that baby boomers are beginning to age en masse, medical and business establishments are discovering a growth industry in men who also seek to slow their degeneration.
“They want to stay young forever,” said Dr. Angelos Manganiotis, a urologist and chief of surgery at Boca Raton Regional Hospital. “Men are later to this issue than women are.”
Although he has a traditional urology practice, Manganiotis said a growing number of patients have been asking him about testosterone injections and gels. A few years ago, when research showed appropriate supplementing of testosterone had few risks when a man’s fertile years were over, he began to offer it to patients who had their prostates checked and showed extremely low levels in theirblood.
There still are several potential dangers, though, including stroke, testicular atrophy and prostate cancer, Manganiotis said.
Costs vary widely, but most clinics charge about $150 to $400 a month for treatment and monitoring. Dr. Ferdinand Cabrera of Genesis Health Institute, an anti-aging center in Wilton Manors, said he charges $350 for a consultation and $750 for a five-month supply, whether it’s an injection, cream or pellet under the skin.
He said his testosterone business has been increasing about 10 percent a year for the past five years.
Sidney Gordon, founder of Core Institute, said he gets about 25 new testosterone patients each week, up from 15 a week three months ago. Gordon, 34, began taking testosterone at 28, when he suffered from low libido, loss of appetite and stress.
“Once you get your hormones balanced, you can begin to tackle the issues in your life,” he said.
Do you have ‘Low-T’?
Men with these symptoms may have low testosterone
Decreased sex drive
Low sperm count
Increased breast size
Source: National Institutes of Health