Testosterone is a hormone produced by the human body. It’s mainly produced in men by the testicles. Testosterone affects a man’s appearance and sexual development. It stimulates sperm production as well as a man’s sex drive. It also helps build muscle and bone mass.
Testosterone production typically decreases with age. According to the American Urological Association, about 2 out of 10 men older than 60 years have low testosterone. That increases slightly to 3 out of 10 men once they are in their 70s and 80s.
Men can experience a range of symptoms if testosterone decreases more than it should. Low testosterone, or low T, is diagnosed when levels fall below 300 ng/dL.
A normal range is typically 300 to 1,000 ng/dL, though there is no universal laboratory definition. A blood test called a serum testosterone test is used to determine your level of circulating testosterone.
A range of symptoms can occur if testosterone production drastically drops below normal. Common symptoms of low testosterone are often subtle. Here are the 12 most common signs of low T.
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.
Difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection
While testosterone stimulates a man’s sex drive, it also aids in achieving and maintaining an erection. While testosterone alone doesn’t cause an erection, it stimulates receptors in the brain to produce nitric oxide which does.
Nitric oxide is a molecule that helps trigger a series of chemical reactions necessary for an erection to occur. When levels of testosterone are too low, a man may have difficulty achieving an erection prior to sex or having spontaneous erections (for example, during sleep).
However, testosterone is only one of many factors that aid in adequate erections. Many times, other health problems play a role in erectile dysfunction. These can include:
- thyroid problems
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- alcohol use
Low semen volume
Testosterone plays a role in the production of semen, which is the greyish white bodily fluid that aids in the motility of spermatozoa. Men with low T will often notice a decrease in the volume of their semen during ejaculation.
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is made from testosterone. When men experience low testosterone it also lowers the DHT that is produced. DHT binds to certain proteins in the body that in turn reduce the size of hair follicles. This may result in thinning of the hair and may also delay the growth of new hair strands.
Low testosterone can lead to reduced energy levels and fatigue. A man may feel tired, even after an adequate amount of rest or they may develop a diminished interest in exercise or movement.
Loss of muscle mass
Testosterone plays a role in the development of muscle mass, and reduced levels of this hormone can result in a significant loss of muscle mass. However, as low testosterone causes a decrease in mass, the function and strength of the muscles do not diminish, according to research.
Increased body fat
Men with low T may also experience increases in body fat. In particular, they sometimes develop gynecomastia or enlarged breast tissue. This effect is believed to occur due to an imbalance between testosterone and estrogen within men.
Decreased bone mass
Osteoporosis, or the thinning of bone mass, is a condition often associated with women. However, men with low T can also experience bone loss. Testosterone helps produce and strengthen the bone. So men with low T, especially older men, have lower bone volume and are more susceptible to bone fractures.
When testosterone levels are low and cortisol levels are comparably high, men can experience anger, hostility, anxiety, and overall irritability. These mood swings and irritability can be a result of the hormonal imbalance.
In addition to the physical changes caused by having low testosterone, this can also lead to trouble with men’s memory and cognitive functioning.
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
Some research shows men with low testosterone can be at an increased risk for anemia. Symptoms of anemia include problems concentrating, lightheadedness, charley horse, difficulty sleeping, and an irregular or abnormal heart rate.
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From screening and prevention to testosterone treatment and recovery, our low t Omaha & Council Bluffs specialists will be there for you. Our team of dedicated physicians has been serving residents of Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota for more than 25 years.