Testosterone is an essential male sex hormone that plays a key part in sexual development and reproduction. This hormone is responsible for the development of male physical characteristics during puberty, such as increased muscle mass, growth of body hair, and deepening of the voice. Testosterone levels peak during adolescence and early adulthood, and then slowly decline with age.
In men, testosterone is produced primarily in the testicles. The production and release of testosterone is regulated by the brain and pituitary gland. Maintaining normal testosterone levels is important for many aspects of men’s health, including sex drive, energy levels, bone and muscle strength, fat distribution, and mood.
There are several potential causes of low testosterone, also known as hypogonadism or testosterone deficiency. As men age, testosterone levels naturally start to decline after age 30. Chronic health conditions, injuries, infections, medications, and lifestyle factors can contribute to lower testosterone.
Common causes include:
In some cases, low testosterone results from a genetic disorder present at birth that affects normal testicular development.
The symptoms of low testosterone can vary, but may include:
Some men with low testosterone are asymptomatic, while others may experience multiple symptoms that negatively impact their quality of life.
If low testosterone is suspected based on symptoms, a doctor will perform lab tests to measure the amount of circulating testosterone. A blood sample is analyzed to determine total testosterone levels, as well as bioavailable testosterone that is usable by tissues.
Since testosterone levels normally fluctuate and can be temporarily lowered by factors like sleep deprivation, testing is usually done more than once to confirm a diagnosis of hypogonadism. Doctors may also assess related hormone levels produced by the pituitary gland.
A thorough medical history and physical exam helps identify any underlying conditions that could be contributing to low testosterone.
The right low testosterone treatment depends on the individual patient, underlying causes, and desired outcome. Options may include:
Doctors work with patients to tailor the treatment approach based on medical history, lab results, treatment goals, and preferences. Ongoing monitoring helps optimize long-term therapy.
If you are diagnosed with low testosterone, working closely with your healthcare providers for follow-up testing and care is recommended. Long term supplementation may be required.
Be aware of potential side effects of testosterone therapy, including infertility, enlarged prostate, cardiovascular complications, and changes in cholesterol levels.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle, managing stress, communicating openly with your partner, and utilizing counseling services can help in coping with the effects of low testosterone on sexual function, mood, energy, and quality of life.