Testosterone is the vital sex male hormone responsible for normal sexual development and function in men. In teenagers, it is responsible for body and facial hair and the development of muscle strength. In male adults, it stimulates sperm production and has a strong influence on a man’s sex drive. As men grow older, their testosterone levels drop gradually, with significant drops experienced from ages 60 to 80. At ProMD Health in Baltimore, MD, we have several ways of testing for low testosterone.
What Is Low Testosterone?
Also known as Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome, Low Testosterone, or Low T, is a health condition where the amount of testosterone produced by the testicles is not enough to keep the body at optimum functionality. In medical circles, you are considered to be suffering from low testosterone if your levels are less than 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL).
Testosterone therapy is an ideal treatment solution for low testosterone levels. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises the use of testosterone therapy to treat low testosterone caused by inborn conditions such as Klinefelter syndrome. Testosterone therapy is also an ideal treatment option for men who harm or lose their testicles. Testosterone therapy boosts the testosterone levels for men who have had their testicles removed because of some serious health conditions, such as cancer.
How Common Is Low Testosterone?
It is not clear exactly how many men suffer from low testosterone levels. However, some data shows that 2 in every 100 are affected by this condition. The numbers vary depending on age. On average, only about 1% of younger men experience Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome. The number is significantly higher in older men, with about 50% of men aged 80 and above suffering from Low T.
Men are more likely to suffer from low testosterone if they are overweight or have diabetes. Up to 30% of men who are overweight have Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome compared to 6.4% of men with a healthy weight. Men who have diabetes are twice as likely to experience Low T compared to those without diabetes.
14 Signs and Symptoms of Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome
1. Problems With Erection
Besides stimulating your sex drive, testosterone also helps you achieve and maintain an erection. Testosterone on its own does not cause an erection. It influences an erection by stimulating brain receptors that produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is an important molecule involved in a complex reaction that results in an erection. Men with Low T have a hard time achieving and maintaining an erection before and during sex. They may also notice they no longer get those spontaneous erections they used to have while sleeping or early in the morning when they wake up.
However, it is important to note that Low T is not the sole source of erection dysfunction. There are several other causes of erection difficulties, including:
- Thyroid problems
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
2. Hair Loss
Among other body functions, testosterone also plays a role in hair production. For many men, balding is a natural process that comes with age. In most cases we inherit balding genes from our parents. However, men with Low T have an increased chance to lose body and facial hair.
3. Reduced Bone Mass
Thinning of the bone mass, also known as osteoporosis, is a medical condition that usually affects women. Since testosterone plays a part in development of bone tissue and maintenance of bone volume, however, lower than normal levels lead to reduced bone mass in men, too. Older men with Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome are more susceptible to bone loss, which exposes them to increased risk for bone fractures.
4. Low Blood Count
Health professionals have in recent years discovered a connection between Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome and an increased risk of anemia. Medical researchers have found that anemic men with Low T show significant improvements in blood count when they use testosterone gel compared to anemic men with Low T who use only a placebo gel. Some of the complications associated with anemia include:
- Concentration problems
- Sleeping problems
- Abnormally rapid heart rate
- Leg Cramping
5. Smaller Testicles
Although there can be other reasons for an unusually small penis and testicle, Low T among men sometimes contributes to a smaller penis and testicle size. Testosterone is vital in the growth and development of the penis and testicles. Therefore, when one suffers from Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome, they might have a disproportionately smaller penis or testicles. Their scrotum might also appear and feel softer than usual.
6. Low Sex Drive
Testosterone has a big impact on a man’s sex drive. While it is normal for some men to experience a gradual decline of their libido as they age, those with Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome experience a more drastic decline.
7. Loss of Muscle Mass
Testosterone is vital in the development of muscle mass. Therefore, when a person’s body is not producing enough testosterone, they tend to lose muscle mass. Fortunately, while Low T leads to a decrease in muscle mass, it does not seem to affect strength or function.
8. Increased Body Fat
Although Low T causes the loss of muscle mass, it also can lead to an increase in body fat. Men with Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome are susceptible to gynecomastia, a condition where the breast tissue increases in size. Gynecomastia occurs when there is an imbalance between testosterone and estrogen in men.
Men suffering from Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome experience a drastic drop in energy levels and constant, extreme fatigue. They feel tired most of the time despite having enough sleep and rest. Others lose interest and lack the motivation to engage in the physical activities they previously enjoyed.
10. Low Semen Volume
Semen is the liquid that transports sperm from the male body. It makes up a big part of the male ejaculate. A notable reduction in the volume of semen a man produces is a sign he might have Low T. In some cases, low semen volume can lead to fertility problems.
11. Difficulty Sleeping
Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome interferes with one’s sleeping pattern, making it difficult to get to sleep or stay asleep. The majority of men who have Low T are also more likely to develop sleep apnea. People with sleep apnea temporarily stop breathing while sleeping. This interferes with the quality of their sleep and can lead to further complications.
12. Hot Flashes
When a hot flash occurs, you are hit by a sudden wave of heat, sometimes accompanied by a red, flushed face and sweating. Hot flashes occur when blood vessels close to the skin expand to cool off, resulting in sweating. When hot flashes happen at night, they are called night sweats, and they can interfere with the quality of your sleep. Typically, hot flashes are common among women, especially after menopause when estrogen levels fluctuate. Men with Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome sometimes experience hot flashes, too.
13. Affected Memory
Naturally, physical and mental functions decline as we age. This includes testosterone levels and memory function. Health professionals believe there is a link between a drop in testosterone levels and the development of memory problems. According to some medical researchers, when men with Low T used testosterone supplements, their memory improves.
14. Mood Swings and Changes
Besides affecting physical function, testosterone also plays an important role in mood regulation. Medical researchers note that men with Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome are more susceptible to depression, irritability and lack of focus. All these conditions can reduce the quality of your personal and work life.
Causes of Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome
Some men have some innate health conditions that cause Low T, including:
- Noonan syndrome
- Klinefelter syndrome
Other conditions that contribute to Low T include:
- Removal of testicles because of cancer
- Damage to testicles in an accident
- Radiation or chemotherapy
- Autoimmune disease
- Pituitary gland disease
- Metabolic syndrome
- Certain medications, such as narcotic pain medications and antidepressants
When to Seek Treatment
Sometimes men with Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome do not show symptoms and only find out they have it during a routine blood check. However, if you have experienced one or more of the symptoms we have mentioned, you should see a doctor and express your concerns. The doctor will physically examine you for any signs of Low T and may order a blood test or a bone density test to determine whether you have Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome. A bone density test shows any reduction in bone mass, which is a telltale sign of Low T.
Although a doctor can physically examine you to check for any signs of Low T, the most reliable and accurate method to test for Low T is the measurement of total blood testosterone level.
The doctor will also review your medical history and may ask you about:
- Your development in puberty
- Headache and visual field change
- Previous experiences of head trauma
- History of brain tumor, brain surgery or cranial irradiation
- Previous infections of the testicles
- History of a heart attack or a stroke
- Opiate use
- Mumps during puberty
The doctor might also carry out the following physical examinations:
- Body Mass Index (BMI) or your waist’s circumference to check for obesity
- Prostate size
- Testicle size
- Hair pattern
The most common treatment option for Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome is testosterone replacement therapy. Only a doctor can prescribe testosterone replacement therapy after ascertaining that you have Low T from blood tests and confirmed physical and mental signs and symptoms of Low T. Testosterone replacement therapy can be delivered in several ways, including skin patches, gels, injections, tablets, and through pellets that are surgically implanted.
Most people show signs of improvement after 6 to 8 weeks of testosterone replacement therapy. During this stage, you are likely to notice relief from the signs of Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome. Your doctor might also advise you to make some lifestyle changes, including getting regular exercise and eating a healthier diet. Foods like beef, oysters, beans, milk, fortified cereals, tuna and shellfish boost the production of testosterone.
Testosterone levels decline naturally with age. However, since testosterone plays an important role in several physical and mental functions, this decline brings some undesirable complications that can negatively affect the quality of your life. It is even more alarming when you notice the signs of Low T at a young age.
If you experience any of the signs we have mentioned above, reach out for professional help from the experts at ProMD Health in Baltimore, MD. A health professional will provide you with all the information you need about low testosterone and advise you on the steps to take to recover your youthful vitality.