We often start these articles with a review of the basics simply because we know that most of you don’t want to discuss this with your doctor. (Tele-medicine may make it easier and we are here to help.) But nonetheless, let’s look at the fundamentals of testosterone before discussing normal testosterone levels or testing for low testosterone.
Low testosterone affects nearly 40% of men over the age of 45. Below, we discuss Low-T in younger men, but if you have low testosterone in middle-aged, you’re far from alone.
Testosterone is a hormone naturally produced by the body – mainly in the gonads (testicles in men and ovaries in women). Both men and women produce both estrogen and testosterone, but testosterone is the primary sex hormone for men and estrogen is the primary sex hormone for women. While both men and women can suffer from low levels, men make up the vast majority of patients with this condition. So in this article, we discuss the diagnosis primarily from the male perspective.
RELATED: Low Testosterone Symptoms in Men
What Causes Low Testosterone?
Low testosterone is often a symptom of hypogonadism which is a diminished functionality of the gonads that may result in reduced production of sex hormones (testosterone in men and estrogen in women). To make it worse, hypogonadism also interferes with your DHEA levels – a steroid hormone that catalyzes testosterone, so hypogonadism actually has a “one-two-punch” effect on your active testosterone.
In men, hypogonadism is more specifically referred to as hypoandrogenism. This underlying cause is responsible for all of the observable signs and symptoms we will discuss below.
When Should I Ask For A Testosterone Level Test?
You’re not a doctor so you cannot diagnose yourself with hypoandrogenism (or anything else). But you can help your doctor by noticing certain signs and taking action when you see them. Short of a medical diagnosis, here are some informative signs that you might want to request a testosterone level test.
1. Low Sex Drive
Men’s sex drive is a function of testosterone so any reduction of the hormone can affect your libido. Some reduction in sex drive is natural as we age, but a steep drop-off is never normal. Ask the doctor if you’re not sure.
2. Difficulty with Erection
As much as testosterone supports libido, it also helps in the process of reaching an erection and maintaining it to climax. Testosterone does not directly cause erections but it catalyzes certain neuroreceptors in the brain that trigger an erection.
3. Low Semen Volume
Semen is different from sperm: sperm fertilizes eggs while semen is the fluid in which the sperm can swim and be nourished and protected on its way to its mission. You need both and you can usually notice (over time) if the volume of ejaculation is decreasing. This is a symptom to discuss with your doctor when requesting a testosterone level test.
4. Hair Loss
Some balding is natural in men as we age. But if you are experiencing loss of hair all over your body – legs, arms, armpits, genitals, etc. – that can be a sign of low testosterone.
Fatigue has many causes and has become a normal part of our culture. It has so many causes that it really must be discussed with a doctor for any clarity. But if you’re fatigued and listless after getting plenty of sleep, low testosterone could be one of the causes, and resting a testosterone level test might be a good next step.
6. Loss of Muscle Mass
Testosterone plays a key role in the development and maintenance of muscle tissue. Independent studies have demonstrated that testosterone affects muscle mass, though perhaps not actual strength. If you are noticing a reduction in your muscle mass despite consistent workouts, a testosterone level test may be in order.
7. Increased Body Fat
Low testosterone has the ability to increase body fat measures in men. One condition stemming from low testosterone is the disproportionate distribution of fat to the breast area creating the appearance of breasts. This condition is known as gynecomastia and may indicate low testosterone.
8. Diminished Bone Mass
Because testosterone helps in the production and maintenance of healthy bones, men with low testosterone experience a thinning of the bone mass. This condition makes these men more vulnerable to fractures so consulting a doctor could be important.
Men with low testosterone tend to experience unstable and unpleasant moods and it is not just because lack of sex drive makes you cranky. It is because testosterone affects so many bodily functions that it can easily affect brain chemistry and mental health. And it is borne out in research that men with low testosterone experience difficulty focusing, irritability, and depression.
10. Memory Issues
The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study concluding that among men with low testosterone, supplementing the insufficient hormone increased memory range by 100%. More research is needed into why this is true, but doctors theorize that testosterone decline may be related to memory loss.
11. Smaller Testicle Size
Because the body requires testosterone to develop and maintain the testicles and penis, a reduction in testosterone levels can create a reduction in the overall mass of the penis and testicles.
12. Low Blood Counts
Researchers have identified the connection between low testosterone and disproportionate risk of anemia. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that applying testosterone gel topically to the skin of anemia patients simultaneously improved both their testosterone levels and their anemia. (You can recognize the signs of anemia which are shortness of breath, flushing feelings, rapid heart rate, and elevated blood pressure.)
For Men Under 30
Low testosterone is uncommon in men under 30 but it can happen. Because normal testosterone levels are natural for younger men, young patients with Low T should consider all of the basic health indicators and improve them first before seeking treatment for low testosterone.
High cholesterol can reduce testosterone in young men. So can obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, anabolic steroids, and opiates. Check your overall health first and eliminate these known causes of Low T in young men and then consult a doctor if your problem remains after these factors are improved.
Whatever your age, consult a doctor if you are experiencing the symptom of low testosterone. Your doctor can perform the right test to check your levels and can prescribe a number of options once the problem is diagnosed.
There is a lot to think about – we understand. If you have questions about Irritable Male Syndrome or any of the conditions discussed here, connecting with a doctor in a discrete setting has never been easier.
Opt Health is a telehealth platform that reconnects men with wellness, fitness, strength, and sexual vitality through scientific preventive medicine. From your own home, you can schedule with a physician, meet one-on-one via video conference, receive test results, and have medications delivered to your door.
For questions, inquiries, or appointments, don’t hesitate to contact us. Get personalized support and insight from top-tier physicians available 24/7.