It is essential to understand what testosterone is before getting into the signs and symptoms of low testosterone.
Testosterone is the male hormone responsible for sexual organs development and masculinity features.
For instance, during puberty, it is responsible for developing features such as facial hair, deep voice, and muscular strength.
It is also crucial for energy, bone mass, muscle growth, mood, sleep, fat loss, stamina, and sex drive and sperm quality.
The production of testosterone naturally decreases with age.
After the age of 30, men realise a one percent decrease in their T-levels every year.
What Does Low Testosterone Mean?
Low testosterone, also known as male hypogonadism, is a condition where testes do not produce enough testosterone.
The American Urology Association (AUA) 1 identifies low testosterone as T-levels below 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dl).
The normal testosterone levels range between 300 to 1000ng/dl on the lower limit and 1000 to 1200ng/dl on the upper limit.
Low testosterone is associated with various symptoms such as low sex drive, hair loss, mood changes, and fatigue among others
But you need to get a diagnosis to determine if your symptoms are a result of low testosterone.
Should You Be Worried?
While it is not easy to know how many men have a testosterone deficiency, research 2 shows 40% of men aged 45 and older have low-T levels.
The American Urological Association reports that about 2 in every 10 men have testosterone deficiency.
About 1 percent of young male adults have low T levels compared to 50 percent of the senior citizens.
Studies 3 show a close correlation between type2 diabetes and testosterone deficiency.
Some studies say low testosterone increases the risk of type2 diabetes, while others show type2 diabetes may result in testosterone deficiency.
Additionally, overweight and obese men have a risk of developing low testosterone.
Why Is Your Testosterone Going Downhill?
These are the leading causes of low testosterone.
- Infection/injury of the testes.
- Metabolic disorders – high blood sugar, too much iron in the blood, belly fat, high blood pressure, and unhealthy cholesterol levels.
- Overindulgence in alcohol.
- Certain medications such as steroids, opioids, and antidepressants.
- Disruptive sleep apnea.
- Delayed puberty.
- Ambiguous genitalia, this is where sex organs develop while lacking typical appearance.
- Klinefelter syndrome.
- Noonan syndrome.
Signs of Low Testosterone
Doctors say that low testosterone has become a common diagnosis today.
Let’s see some of the most common signs of low testosterone.
Low sex drive
Testosterone stimulates the urge to have sex in men.
With increasing age, a man’s sex drive may fluctuate.
However, if your sex urge is entirely absent, this might be a warning that your T-levels are abnormally low.
Reduced erectile function
Nitric oxide stimulates an erection by increasing blood flow to the penis supporting longer and stronger erections.
Testosterone accelerates the production of nitric oxide; thus, when you have low-T levels you might experience difficulty maintaining an erection.
Additionally, low testosterone reduces sex drive, which makes it hard to have an erection.
However, erectile dysfunction may be caused by other aspects and not necessarily testosterone.
Check with your doctor to be sure.
Loss of lean muscle mass
Testosterone is responsible for muscle growth.
Therefore, men with low testosterone levels are likely to notice a loss of lean muscle mass.
A 2016 study 4 shows that low testosterone influences muscle mass but not muscle function or potency.
Men who suffer from testosterone deficiency have exhibited extreme fatigue and a drastic decrease in their energy levels.
If you feel tired, even with regular quality sleep and rest, you might need to visit your doctor for a low testosterone diagnosis.
Have you ever wondered why balding seems to be a natural aging process among men?
Well, it is actually simple to understand this phenomenon once you realise that testosterone decreases with age.
Balding is associated with genetic makeup, but low testosterone levels could result in extreme loss of facial and body hair in men.
Abnormal weight gain
Men with testosterone deficiency are also likely to experience a massive increase in body fat.
Mainly, you’ll notice gynecomastia, also referred to as ‘man boobs,’ a condition in which the breast tissues become enlarged.
This happens due to the lack of balance between estrogen and testosterone hormones in men.
Low T-levels could also contribute to an increase in visceral fat.
Testosterone affects mood.
A 2013 study 5 shows low testosterone causes irritability, anxiety, poor concentration, and mood swings in men.
Lower bone density
Testosterone increases bone density and accelerates the bone marrow to produce red blood cells.
In a study 6 published in the journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, men who increased their T levels noticed an increase in bone density.
Men with low testosterone levels may experience hot flashes.
Low testosterone levels may cause the testes to shrink or become abnormally soft.
Testosterone is vital for developing the testes and penis; thus, a man with lower levels has a smaller penis and testes.
However, other factors may affect the size of your testicles.
To ascertain that low testosterone is behind your smaller testicles, have a testosterone blood check.
Diagnosing Low Testosterone
So, when do you see the doctor?
Low testosterone is often accompanied by more than one of the above signs; hence, you may need to visit your doctor for proper diagnosis.
Your doctor will combine various tests and a series of examinations, including your medical history, to make a precise diagnosis.
1. Medical History
Some of the information your doctor might ask includes:
- Possible symptoms of brain mass or pituitary tumors such as headaches or changes in your visual field.
- Your development during puberty.
- History of head trauma.
- History of infection or injury to your testicles.
- Anosmia (loss of ability to smell).
- Past or present use of anabolic steroids, opiates, glucocorticoids or antidepressants.
- Family history of diseases linked to Low-T.
- History of unexplained anemia.
- History of chemotherapy or irradiation.
- History of heart diseases or cardiovascular failure.
2. Physical Examination
During the physical examination, doctors usually check for the following things:
- Circumference of your waist or BMI to diagnose for obesity.
- Symptoms of high blood pressure, excess body fat, high blood sugar levels, and abnormal triglyceride or cholesterol levels. Collectively, this is referred to as metabolic syndrome.
- Amount, location and hair pattern.
- Presence and size of testicles.
- Size and abnormalities of the prostate, if any.
3. Blood Testing
During a low testosterone diagnosis, a series of blood tests may be carried out to check for total testosterone levels, prolactin levels, blood hemoglobin, and luteinizing hormone levels.
At this point, you have all it takes to know whether you should be visiting your doctor or not.
The good news is that the issue of testosterone can be reversed.
There are several natural ways of boosting testosterone levels, in addition to medical supplements.
Your doctor should be able to advise you on the best way forward after affirming that you are suffering from low testosterone.
Avoid indulging in unhealthy lifestyles that may worsen your low T levels.