Low testosterone, or "Low-T," is a surprisingly common condition that affects tens of millions of men around the world.
Testosterone is an essential hormone for men (and women, albeit in very small amounts). At healthy levels, testosterone is responsible for everything from controlling your sex drive and energy levels to helping you gain strength and develop muscle tissue.
What is Low Testosterone?
Some men have low testosterone levels. This is called Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome (TD) or Low Testosterone (Low-T). Deficiency means that the body does not have enough of a needed substance. Syndrome is a group of symptoms that, together, suggest a disease or health condition.
The American Urology Association (AUA) identifies low blood testosterone (Low-T) as less than 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL). These symptoms or conditions may accompany Low-T:
- Low sex drive
- Reduced lean muscle mass
- Erectile dysfunction
- There are many other possible reasons for these symptoms, such as: opioid use, some congenital conditions (medical conditions you are born with), loss of or harm to the testicles, diabetes, and obesity (being overweight). See your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.
Low Testosterone Signs & Treatments
Below are common signs and symptoms of low testosterone in males. Females may also experience some of the following.
Problems with erections
Testosterone stimulates the penile tissues to produce nitric oxide, which starts several reactions that result in an erection.
If levels of the hormone are too low, a man may not be able to get an erection.
The following are other factors that can cause erectile dysfunction:
- thyroid-related issues
- high cholesterol
- stress or anxiety
- alcohol consumption
- high blood pressure
Low sex drive
Testosterone plays a key role in libido (sex drive) in men. Some men may experience a decline in sex drive as they age. However, someone with low T will likely experience a more drastic drop in their desire to have sex.
Testosterone plays a role in several body functions, including hair production. Balding is a natural part of aging for many men. While there is an inherited component to balding, men with low T may experience a loss of body and facial hair, as well.
Reduced bone mass
Testosterone helps to produce bone tissue and maintain bone volume.
Low testosterone can lead to a reduction in this volume, which can make the bones more susceptible to fractures.
Men with low testosterone may find it difficult to fall or stay asleep.
Many males with low testosterone also have sleep apnea. This potentially severe disorder causes a person to temporarily stop breathing, which can disrupt sleep.
While many people associate hot flashes with estrogen levels that fluctuate during menopause, low levels of testosterone may also cause this symptom.
A decrease in energy levels
Low testosterone can lead to reduced levels of energy and fatigue.
A person may feel tired, even after adequate rest, or they may develop a diminished interest in exercise or movement.
An increase in body fat
A reduction in testosterone can lead to an increase in body fat.
In some cases, men with a deficiency of the hormone develop gynecomastia, which causes an enlargement of the breasts.
Changes in mood or mood swings
Some evidence suggests that men with low levels of testosterone are likely to experience a lack of focus, irritability, and depression.
Both testosterone levels and cognitive functions — particularly memory — decline with age. As a result, doctors have theorized that lower testosterone levels could contribute to affected memory.
According to a research study published in the Journal of the American Medical AssociationTrusted Source, some smaller research studies have linked testosterone supplementation with improved memory in men with low levels. However, the study’s authors did not observe memory improvements in their study of 493 men with low testosterone levels who took testosterone or a placebo.
Smaller testicle size
Low testosterone levels in the body can contribute to smaller-than-average sized testicles. Because the body requires testosterone to develop the penis and testicles, low levels could contribute to a disproportionately smaller penis or testicles compared to a man with normal testosterone levels.
However, there are other causes of smaller-than-normal testicles in addition to low testosterone levels, so this isn’t always just a low testosterone symptom.
Low blood counts
Doctors have linked low testosterone with an increased risk for anemia, according to a research article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
When the researchers administered testosterone gel to anemic men who also had low testosterone, they saw improvements in blood counts compared to men who used a placebo gel. Some of the symptoms anemia can cause include problems concentrating, dizziness, leg cramping, problems sleeping, and an abnormally rapid heart rate.
Low Testosterone Treatments
Regardless of the reason you’re experiencing low testosterone, treatment options are available to increase testosterone or reduce unwanted side effects.
Testosterone therapy can be delivered in several ways:
- injections into the muscle every few weeks
- patches or gels applied to the skin
- a patch that is applied inside the mouth
- pellets that are inserted under the skin of the buttocks
Testosterone therapy is not recommended for those who have experienced or are at a high risk of prostate cancer.
Losing weight and being physically active
Exercising more and losing weight can help slow the decrease of testosterone your body is experiencing.
Erectile dysfunction medication
If your most concerning symptom from lower testosterone is erectile dysfunction, erectile dysfunction medications may help.
If you’re unable to get relief from insomnia using relaxation and natural remedies, sleeping medications may help.
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