Low testosterone, or low-t, has become increasingly common in recent years. As men become more open to talking about their health problems, especially in regard to sexual functions, and the stigma lessens, more men are seeking help with symptoms of low testosterone.
You may be familiar with testosterone for its effects during puberty, when it deepens a man’s voice, builds his muscles, and aids in growth of reproductive organs. Further into adulthood, regular testosterone levels keep a man feeling physically manly. It keeps your muscles and bones strong as well as sustaining sexual drive.
There is a common decline in testosterone production after the age of thirty. Usually, this manifests itself as a lack of interest in sex which they attribute to getting older. This is a misconception, however, and it is relatively common among men.
When testosterone levels fall below 30 ng/dL, a range of symptoms can occur. Usually, these symptoms are subtle and hard to pinpoint at first.
Low sex drive is a key sign that testosterone levels are low. While it is common for men to experience a lowering in sex drive over time, drastic drops are a sign of low testosterone.
Testosterone also plays an important role in getting and maintaining an erection. So, with low-t, even if you have the desire to have sex, you may not even be able to due to inability to support an erection. However, a number of other health problems can affect erections, so talk to your doctor.
Hair loss is also quite common with low levels of testosterone. Many men see balding as a natural part of the aging process, but men with low testosterone experience a loss of body and facial hair in addition to hair on the head.
Men with low-t also are victims of low levels of energy and extreme fatigue. Even when plenty of sleep if had, you still may be tired. It may also be harder to find the motivation to exercise.
In regard to exercise, low testosterone can also decrease total muscle mass. It does not, however, affect strength or function, but the overall mass is changed. In the same vein, body fat may increase. It is common for men with low testosterone to develop enlarged breast tissue due to the hormonal imbalance.
The symptoms of low testosterone are not always physical. Mood changes can also be a symptom. Men with low-t are more likely to experience depression, inability to focus, or sudden irritability.
There are two main causes of low testosterone, primary and secondary. Underactive testes do not create enough testosterone to fuel the body, which can be due to an inherited trait, accident, or illness. Secondary causes are found when there is damage to the pituitary gland or hypothalamus, which can be inherited, due to disease, or natural circumstances. Some of these primary and secondary causes can be mixed, so be on the lookout.
Here are some causes to watch for:
- Too much iron in the blood can cause damage to glands that regulate hormones or testicular failure.
- Injury to the testicles can be a primary cause, but the damage must be to both testicles to affect levels.
- Inflammatory diseases can affect both the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus, making diseases such as tuberculosis dangerous to healthy testosterone levels.
- Aging is a common secondary cause. As you age, production of hormones slows and the response to hormones is lessened.
- Being overweight or obese can inhibit hormone production due to elevated levels of body fat.
- Certain medications can affect the function of these glands, but illness also plays a role. Stress, be it emotional or physical, can cause a shut down in the reproductive system.
- These are only a few of the possible symptoms. Talking to your doctor about your testosterone levels can give you a better picture.
Testosterone replacement therapy is the most common route to returning testosterone levels to normal and getting you back into your regular life. However, there are both benefits and risks to this type of treatment.
Sexual drive and response can be brought back to normal by testosterone replacement therapy. This is usually the main reason that men seek treatment. There are, however, more benefits that just this.
Regular testosterone levels also play a role in lowering your risk of developing some health problems such as osteoporosis, diabetes, and obesity. There is also a link between low testosterone and a shortened life expectance rate for men.
There are risks to testosterone replacement therapy. Men who choose to pursue this route of treatment have an increased risk of blood clots and stroke. There is also a likelihood of sleep apnea and a risk of developing acne and breast enlargement.
A great many factors can impact testosterone. Here are a few ways to keep it at healthy levels:
- Get enough ZZZs. Stress can lower testosterone, so getting enough sleep and mediating can help stabilize your levels.
- Exercise! Weight lifting, especially types of resistance training, can boost your testosterone.
- Eat well. Getting enough vitamin D in your diet can help keep testosterone up. Salmon and orange juice are great additions to any balanced diet.
Overall, the prognosis for low testosterone is good. It typically depends on your lifestyle changes and how well you follow treatment. However, if you are diagnosed in later stages of the disease, you may still suffer loss of bone mass and muscle mass regardless of treatment.
Your best bet is to keep an eye on your overall health. If everything else is functioning well, your reproductive system and hormones should follow suit. If anything is out of the ordinary, seek a doctor.
Remember that this subject, though it may seem touchy at first, is a vital topic to bring up to your doctor. It may seem embarrassing at first, but if there was ever anyone to tell your problems to, it is your doctor. There is nothing unmanly about having low testosterone, especially if you have the courage to seek treatment.