Low Testosterone: What is it?
Testosterone is one of your most important hormones. It is responsible for creating your sex drive and influences sperm production and fertility. It also keeps the heart, muscles and bones healthy. As you get older, it is normal for your testosterone levels to gradually taper off. This is a normal part of aging. In contrast, low testosterone is when the testosterone levels are so low that they cause other health issues.
Know the Facts
Low testosterone, also called Hypogonadism, is when the body does not produce enough testosterone to meet the normal needs of the body. Since the testosterone in your body has many useful functions, having too little of it can cause problems. Low Testosterone goes by a few other names, including testosterone deficiency and gonadal deficiency. In older males, it is sometimes called andropause, androgen deficiency in the aging male (ADAM), late onset hypogonadism, or age-associated testosterone deficiency syndrome (TDS).
Causes of Low Testosterone
There are many causes of low testosterone. These causes fall into two main groups: primary causes (where the problem originates in the testicles) and secondary causes (where the problem originates in the brain). These are just a few of the primary causes:
- Klinefelters syndrome
- Undescended testes
- Injury to one or both testicles
- Certain chemotherapies
The many secondary causes include:
- Disorders or tumors of the pituitary gland
- Radiation or surgery to the pituitary gland
- Use of certain prescription drugs
Who is at Risk?
Know the Risk Factors
About 40% of men over 45 have low testosterone. Men over 65 are more than twice as likely to have it compared to men under 65. The use of certain prescription drugs also increases the risks of low testosterone. As well, men with certain health conditions also have a high likelihood of low testosterone, including:
- Metabolic syndrome
- Sleep apnea
- Renal failure
What Should You Watch Out For?
Watch for These Things
These signs and symptoms can be caused by low testosterone, or by a number of other factors. See a doctor if you are experiencing: Physical signs and symptoms:
- Reduced muscle mass, power, and strength
- Muscle and joint aches
- Increased fat or obesity
- Enlarged, swollen or tender breasts
- Reduced facial, body and/or pubic hair
- Decreased bone density, bone fractures or osteoporosis
- Loss of height
- Night sweats or hot flushes
Psychological signs and symptoms:
- Feeling irritable, sad or depressed
- Trouble with concentration or memory
Sexual signs and symptoms:
- Reduced sex drive
- Difficulty getting an erection
- Difficulty obtaining an erection
- Delayed orgasm
- Reduced ejaculate volume
- Low sperm count Infertility
What Can You Do?
Talk to a Doctor
Visit a doctor if you believe you may have low testosterone. Your doctor may perform blood tests to find out whether you do or not. If you do, your doctor may also perform extra tests to find out the cause of low testosterone.
Low testosterone can be treated. The most common treatment is testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), where the goal is to bring testosterone levels back into a normal range. TRT is administered in various ways, including injections, patches, gels, pills, and implanted pellets. A doctor can determine the most appropriate method of treatment and can advise you about any side effects.