What is Testosterone?
Testosterone is a male sex hormone that plays a major role in their sexual development and fertility. Varying levels of testosterone within a man’s body will affect many bodily functions, including:
- The production of both body and facial hair
- Muscle strength
- Sexual drive
Causes of Low Testosterone
It is completely natural for testosterone levels to decrease with age, leaving approximately half of men over the age of 80 with low testosterone (Low-T). Other common factors that lead to Low-T include:
- Side effects of certain medications
- Metabolic syndrome
- Injury or infection of the testes
- A congenital condition
- Side effects of chemotherapy or radiation treatments
- Issues with the pituitary gland
- An existing autoimmune disease
- A prior diagnosis of HIV or AIDS
Typical Symptoms of Low-T
We have already discussed how testosterone levels contribute greatly toward a man’s sexual health, which is why it makes sense that low testosterone levels would result in impaired sexual function.
In addition to a decrease in sexual desire and problems with erectile dysfunction, individuals with Low-T will also often experience:
- Loss of body or facial hair
- Constant fatigue
- Decreased amounts of lean muscle mass
- Signs of depression
- Weight gain
- Difficulty in articulating their speech
Testosterone production declines naturally with age. Low testosterone, or testosterone deficiency (TD), may result from disease or damage to the hypothalamus, pituitary gland or testicles that inhibits hormone secretion and testosterone production, and is also known as hypogonadism. Depending on age, insufficient testosterone production can lead to abnormalities in muscle and bone development, underdeveloped genitalia and diminished virility.
Testosterone is the androgenic hormone primarily responsible for normal growth and development of male sex and reproductive organs, including the penis, testicles, scrotum, prostate and seminal vesicles. It facilitates the development of secondary male sex characteristics such as:
- bone mass
- fat distribution
- hair patterns
- laryngeal enlargement
- vocal chord thickening
Additionally, normal testosterone levels maintain energy level, healthy mood, fertility, and sexual desire.
The testes produce testosterone regulated by a complex chain of signals that begins in the brain. This chain is called the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. The hypothalamus secretes gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) to the pituitary gland in carefully timed pulses (bursts), which triggers the secretion of leutenizing hormone (LH) from the pituitary gland. Leutenizing hormone stimulates the Leydig cells of the testes to produce testosterone. Normally, the testes produce 4 – 7 milligrams (mg) of testosterone daily.
Incidence and Prevalence of Testosterone Deficiency
Testosterone production increases rapidly at the onset of puberty and decreases rapidly after age 50 (to 20–50 percent of peak level by age 80). Recent estimates show that approximately 13 million men in the United States experience testosterone deficiency and less than 10 percent receive treatment for the condition.
Studies have shown that obesity, diabetes, and hypertension (high blood pressure) increase a man’s risk for low testosterone.
Treatments for Low Testosterone
There are a wide variety of potential solutions to a person’s low testosterone. Depending upon the particular patient and their case, natural options such as supplements or a new diet plan may be sufficient in boosting these hormone levels.
Some form of hormone replacement therapy is another popular option when it comes to treating Low-T. These may be in the form of an oral/intranasal medication, injection, or as hormone pellets. Different patients will have different techniques for testosterone administration based on their personal preferences and lifestyle.
The best way to begin treatment for low testosterone is to see a specialist, and to discuss your options with them. To schedule an appointment with one of our providers from Siouxland Urology, please call our office today at 1 (605) 217-7000.