Well-Fitting Genes


DNA technology creates safe, purified hormone replacement.

As a boy, Craig* watched the birds in the air and was fascinated. He thought flying was the coolest thing and dreamed about soaring through the air himself. As a young man, the New York native attended college on a Navy scholarship and had the grades to go directly to flight school following graduation.

“I got my wings, and the rest is 25 years of flying history,” shares Craig, 50. “I served as a Navy pilot from 1992 to 2002, and I started working in 2003 for an aircraft manufacturer that makes Black Hawks and other types of helicopters. I’m a test pilot for them.”

Craig’s wife, Amber*, a Connecticut native, has her own career as a registered nurse. She’s been in the field for nearly 20 years. For a while, Amber was a travel nurse, so she had no qualms about relocating to the Sunshine State for Craig’s job.

“I worked in emergency medicine for 10 years, and I’ve been a surgical nurse for pretty much the past 10 years,” elaborates Amber, 44. “I miss the fast pace of emergency medicine, the thinking-on-my-toes aspect, but surgical nursing has its moments. It’s just not as insane as emergency medicine. Both specialties have their pros and cons.

“We moved to Florida 10 years ago. We always wanted to live in a warmer climate, and I can get a job anywhere, so when Craig’s job offered to transfer him, we went with it.”

It was five years ago when Craig initially noticed deviations in how he was feeling, which affected his overall well-being.

“I’ve always been very active and involved in martial arts, weightlifting, general exercise and fitness, but things started to change,” he states. “It was taking longer for me to recuperate from my workouts, and I was feeling more tired than normal. My libido wasn’t where I wanted it to be either.

“It was determined back then that my testosterone was diminished. I began hormone therapy, but I wasn’t happy with the doctors, the treatment or the results because I wasn’t feeling any better.”

Craig wasn’t the only one in misery.

“I began experiencing symptoms as well,” Amber confirms. “My biggest complaints were with my energy and libido.”

In a fortunate turn of events, Craig and Amber met Ramon Vazquez Jr., MD, through the hospital where Amber works. They learned that Dr. Vazquez offers hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, which treats low hormone levels.

Dr. Vazquez determined that low hormones were causing Craig’s and Amber’s uncomfortable symptoms.

“When asked about hormone therapy, some people think of body builders using testosterone to get bigger and stronger,” Craig observes. “But Dr. Vazquez’s therapy is strictly for maintaining my hormone level in the normal range. He sends me for bloodwork, monitors my level and adjusts my prescription to keep it in that normal range so I can live a healthy lifestyle.”

Three’s Company

“By the time women reach the age of 40, it is very common for them to notice changes similar to those described by the famous 1970s actress Suzanne Somers, star of the sitcom Three’s Company,” Dr. Vazquez informs. “These changes include fatigue, loss of energy, malaise, changes in hair texture and quality, hair loss, changes in skin and nails, and generally not feeling like yourself. Eventually, there’s weight gain and loss of libido as well.

“Ms. Somers wrote a book detailing the numerous medical regimens she went through here in the US that were ultimately just prescribing antidepressants. She recognized that her condition was not an issue of depression; it was an issue of hormones. Eventually, she found doctors in Europe who were willing to engage in hormone replacement therapy.

“I encounter the same motivation and the same symptoms in women – and men – in my practice every day, and in most cases, I prescribe HRT for them.”

For years, providers used extracts from the pituitary glands of animals to generate hormones for HRT. But there are serious complications associated with those hormones, including mental illness, and changes in heart and liver function.

“The hormones we use at my practice are derived from recombinant DNA,” Dr. Vazquez describes. “Recombinant DNA is the result of combining genetic material from multiple sources. Using this technique, we manufacture more purified, safer forms of the hormones because we copy the actual genes that produce the hormones.

“Using DNA technology, we have access to unlimited quantities of thyroid hormone for women and men; human chorionic gonadotropin [HCG], which stimulates the testes in men and ovaries in women; the individual sex hormones estrogen and testosterone; and many other essential hormones.”

Before prescribing HRT, Dr. Vazquez thoroughly evaluates the patient’s blood chemistry, liver function and overall health. He uses blood tests at regular intervals throughout treatment to monitor health and hormone levels, and tweaks the hormones as needed.

Dr. Vazquez offers several dispensing options for HRT.

“Men have the choice of injections or pellets,” the doctor explains. “I am not a fan of gels for men, particularly men in relationships. Generally, gels are placed in men’s armpits or a skinfold, but if their partners cuddle with them, they absorb some of those hormones.

“I do employ some gels with women because they can be placed on the women’s inner thighs and absorb well. Another option for women is sublingual hormones. They go under the tongue, where they dissolve. Unfortunately, many sublingual hormones are gelatinous and have a bad taste.

“Pellets are ideal. We simply place a pellet underneath the skin on the side of the leg, and they last up to five or six months. The pellets are slow-release. They provide a much more steady state of the hormones, and both women and men seem to find that much more appealing.

“Typically, the women come to see me first. Then, after they use the hormones for a while and experience results, they bring in their husbands.”

Holistic Approach

Craig decided to get his hormones via injection. In addition, he takes a medication called anastrozole by mouth. Anastrozole decreases the amount of the female hormone estrogen in the body. Too much estrogen can cause men to develop breast buds and other feminine traits.

“A holistic approach is required for men,” Craig reports. “You can’t just take testosterone by itself because there are side effects to that. I give myself a 1 cc injection of testosterone once a week and take anastrozole tablets to decrease estrogen and balance out the negative side effects.

“It took about a month or five weeks after beginning Dr. Vazquez’s HRT to feel a difference. I guess it took a while for my body to metabolize the hormones. But when I’m on the HRT, I feel normal. And it enhances my libido for sure. Using the hormones makes a significant difference.”

“I get my hormones via pellets,” Amber relates. “It takes probably 48 hours after getting a pellet to notice a difference. I see an increase in my libido that fast. Then, within a week or so, I start feeling a difference in my energy. But the hormones in the pellets start to fade after five or six months, so I go back to Dr. Vazquez. He draws my blood, and if my hormone levels are at the low end, I get another pellet inserted.

“Dr. Vazquez is very professional and accessible. He sits down with us and discusses our conditions in detail. He loves to teach us about his treatment and go over the pros and cons. We’re both very happy with him.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo

*Patients’ names changed at their request

As seen in North/West Palm Beach and South Palm Beach editions of Florida Health Care News

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