Low Testosterone: Signs and Symptoms
Testosterone, the male sex hormone produced primarily in the testicles, rises and falls at specific periods in life. There is increased production during puberty, resulting in development of many male characteristics. The levels remain stable for several years after puberty, but around the age of 30 years, testosterone production begins to decline slowly. A normal testosterone level is 300-1000ng/dL. When a man’s testosterone declines more than normal, a wide range of symptoms may develop. Men with symptoms suggestive of low testosterone should see their physician for a blood test, known as the serum testosterone level. If abnormally low testosterone is causing problems, supplements are available.
Low Testosterone and Sexual Drive
Low testosterone is sometimes characterized as “hypogonadism.” This refers to the primary effects testosterone has on the male sex organs. Testosterone is important to maintain libido, or sexual drive. Although some decline in libido is normal with aging, men with a low testosterone, or low T, may have a significant drop in desire and in ability to achieve and sustain an erection.
Although low testosterone is not the only reason men experience erectile dysfunction, it is a significant factor for many men and it is one of the first things a physician will check in male patients with ED or decreased libido. Since sexual activity and sexual desire also increase testosterone levels, low testosterone can result in a spiral. Men with low T may notice they no longer have spontaneous erections during sleep or morning erections.
Low Testosterone can also result in decreased sperm production and decreased production of semen, the fluid that promotes sperm motility. A low volume of sperm during ejaculation can be a sign of low T.
Low Testosterone and Body Effects
Testosterone also influences the pattern of male hair growth, particularly noticeable during puberty. Men with a low Testosterone may begin to lose body and facial hair. Testosterone is important for fat metabolism and storage in men, so a low Testosterone sometimes results in increased body fat or in distribution of body fat in the breast area, a condition known as “gynecomastia.” Men have a different distribution of fat and muscle mass compared to women, primarily related to a greater proportion of lean muscle mass. This can be attributed to the effects of testosterone. Men with low T often notice loss of muscle mass and strength. Osteoporosis is another condition that sometimes occurs as a result of low T. Testosterone is important in men to produce and strengthen bone, so men with low T are often more susceptible to bone fractures.
Testosterone has a significant influence on mood and concentration in men, and low T can result in depression, diminished focus, and irritability. Low T also results in significant fatigue and loss of energy despite adequate sleep.
Testosterone replacement can be helpful to treat these symptoms in men who have low serum testosterone levels. It’s available in several forms, but should only be used in men who do not have a normal level of testosterone.