Levels of some hormones change naturally over the lifespan. Some hormones increase with age, like parathyroid hormone that helps regulate the amount of calcium in the blood and bone. Some tend to decrease over time, such as testosterone in men and estrogen in women. When the body fails to make enough of a hormone because of a disease or disorder, a doctor may prescribe hormone supplements. These come in many forms such as pills, shots, topicals (gels, creams, and sprays applied to the skin), and medicated skin patches.
You may have read magazine articles or seen television programs suggesting that treatment with hormones can make people feel young again or can slow or prevent aging. That’s because finding a “fountain of youth” is a captivating story. The truth is that, to date, no research has shown that hormone therapies add years to life or prevent age-related frailty. And, while some drugs have real health benefits for people with clinical hormone deficiencies due to a disease or disorder, they also can cause harmful side effects. That’s why people who have a diagnosed hormone deficiency should still only take hormones prescribed by a doctor and under a doctor’s supervision.
In some cases, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may have approved a hormone (or hormone therapy) for one purpose, but it is prescribed by physicians for another. This off-label use may occur when physicians believe that research, such as clinical studies, demonstrates a drug’s usefulness for another condition. However, consumers should be aware that off-label use of any drug may not have been tested and verified to the same degree as the original use of the drug.