If you watch television, chances are you’ve seen commercials for the treatment of low testosterone. It’s a big money maker for pharmaceutical companies, as they play on men’s fears that they’re losing their ‘manliness.’ However, low testosterone can have serious implications beyond just lowered sex drive and baldness. It can lead to serious, life-threatening diseases.
Known also as ‘Low T,’ low testosterone affects approximately 5% of all men. Some statistics surmise 39% of men over the age of 45 are affected by low testosterone levels. The affects on a man’s physical and sexual health can be significant. Thankfully, today, there are treatments available.
Scroll down to learn more about low testosterone. What is low testosterone? What are the symptoms? What are the causes of low T? How do I treat low testosterone? And much more!
Written by Kimberly Wylie
- Normal testosterone ranges between 300 ng/dL and 1200 ng/dL.
- Testosterone is key to your libido, brain function, skin & hair health, and muscle maintenance.
- Low testosterone symptoms include: decreased sex drive, no energy, fat accumulation, and moodiness.
- Treatments options range from transdermal solutions, to injections, to under-the-skin pellets.
WHAT IS LOW TESTOSTERONE?
Testosterone is a critical hormone in the male body and is responsible for a variety of functions in the body. It’s the hormone during puberty that deepens your voice and puts hair on your chest. When working properly, your brain and testes work together to produce an appropriate amount of testosterone. It’s responsible for a variety of bodily functions and attributes throughout the course of your life, including:
- Brain Function – Including sex drive, positive mental attitude and aggression
- Hair Growth – Including facial and body hair, and baldness
- Bone – Including red blood cell production in bone marrow and bone density maintenance
- Male Sex Organs – Including sperm production, prostate growth, and erectile function
- Muscle – Including muscle mass development and maintenance, as well as muscle strength
Beginning around the age of 30, most men experience a decline in testosterone. However, a slight decline with age is not the same thing as having Low T.
Normal levels of testosterone range between 300 nanograms/deciliter (ng/dL) and 1200 ng/dL. However, when a man’s testosterone falls below 300 ng/dL, this becomes diagnosable low testosterone, known as:
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF LOW TESTOSTERONE?
Although low testosterone levels don’t always result in symptoms, there are a number of symptoms that can be an indication of lowered testosterone levels. These include:
- Increased Body Fat – If you were always able to eat whatever you wanted when you were younger without gaining weight, and now you see your ‘spare tire’ growing when you just look at a bowl of ice cream – that may be Low T.
- Decreased Strength – Testosterone is key to building muscle mass. If you’re not as strong as you once were, this may be from lower testosterone levels.
- Balding Everywhere – Low T can be the reason your hair seems to be running away from your forehead. You may also notice this balding in other areas of your body, like thinning eyebrows and pubic hair.
- Increased Fatigue – If you find yourself falling asleep on the couch before 9 o’clock every night, or just don’t feel like you have the same energy levels you used to have, low levels of testosterone may be the culprit.
- Swelling of Breast Tissue – If your once rock-hard pecs are feeling a bit man-boobish, it may be Low T at work. This may even be accompanied with some breast tenderness.
- Higher Cholesterol Levels – Testosterone aids in metabolizing of cholesterol, which means a lower level of testosterone can result in higher cholesterol levels.
- Reduced Sex Drive – Testosterone is the critical libido hormone. If you’re just not in the mood as often, it may be Low T. It may even result in erectile dysfunction.
- Sleep Disturbance – Although you may feel more fatigued, ironically Low T can also disturb your sleep you do get, including changed sleep patterns and insomnia.
- Emotional Change – Lower testosterone levels can negatively affect your mental well being, resulting in feelings of sadness, depression, or just general malaise. It can also result in lower motivation and self-confidence, and can negatively affect your memory and concentration.
WHAT CAUSES LOW T?
Low testosterone levels can be caused by a variety of issues. These include:
- Testicular injury
- Hormonal disorders
- Testicular cancer and/or cancer treatment
- Chronic liver or kidney disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Certain medications
- Genetic defects
- Mumps or tuberculosis
- Anabolic steroid use
- Damage to the pituitary gland
In some cases, the cause of the lower testosterone levels simply isn’t known.
ASSOCIATED CONDITIONS DUE TO LOW TESTOSTERONE
Your body needs testosterone for many important functions. Low T not only results in the above-mentioned symptoms, which can be debilitating, but there are other, sometime life-threatening, conditions that can be associated with lowered levels of testosterone. These include:
- Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome,
- Heart Disease, and
- Bone Fragility
LOW TESTOSTERONE STATISTICS
More research needs to be performed to accurately determine the frequency of low testosterone in men. For this reason, the reports of its frequency often vary by source.
- The Urology Care Foundation notes approximately 20% of men over 60, to 30% of men over 70 and 50% of men over 80 years of age suffer from low testosterone.
- However, ABC News reported 1 in 4 (25%) of men over the age of 30 are afflicted with low testosterone.
Whichever statistic is correct, the reality is Low T affects millions of men. In fact, it is estimated that between 4 and 5 million men have Low T. Yet, very few (approximately 3%) see a doctor. Of those, only 5 to 10% actually get treatment.
HOW DO YOU TREAT LOW TESTOSTERONE?
You don’t have to suffer with low testosterone. No longer do men have to suffer what once was thought to be ‘normal’ effects of aging. There are a variety of FDA-approved treatment options now that can fit your specific needs and lifestyle.
FDA-Approved Treatment Options
- Gels and Solutions – Testosterone gels and solutions are applied daily, so the testosterone can be absorbed transdermally. These include brand names like AndroGel and Fortest. They are often applied by hand to the upper arms and shoulder areas, or, in the case of Axiron, it is applied in the armpit.
- Patches – Transdermal patches, like Androderm, treat Low T by also delivering the testosterone through the skin. The patch is applied once per day, and testosterone is released throughout the day.
- Injections – Testosterone injections are given typically every 1 to 2 weeks, by a medical professional. The injection site is most often in the upper buttock.
- Buccal Tablet – A buccal tablet is placed in the mouth, at the gum line. Taken twice per day, the testosterone slowly absorbs through the gums, over a 12-hour period.
- Testosterone Pellets – Testosterone pellets, like Testopel, are placed under the skin, near the hip. This surgical procedure must be conducted by a doctor. These slowly release testosterone over the course of three to six months.
Non-Pharmaceutical Ways to Improve Your Testosterone Levels
There are ways you can naturally improve your testosterone levels. These items are often prescribed in conjunction with prescription medication, but can help men to help ensure their bodies produce as much of their natural testosterone as possible. These include:
- Get a Good Night’s Sleep – Not getting enough sleep can upset your hormone balance, including testosterone production. Try to get at least 7 to 8 hours each night.
- Get Some Sunshine – Sunlight is key to the body’s production of Vitamin D, which is then converted into testosterone. Read more in our article, Get a Little Sunshine and Boost Your Libido.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight – There is a significant correlation between obese men and low testosterone. Losing extra weight can help your testosterone levels. Conversely, underweight men also often have troubles maintaining hormone levels, like testosterone.
- Keep Active – Your brain tells your body when to make testosterone, partially dependent on your physical activity level. Getting regular aerobic and strength-building exercise can help keep your testosterone levels up.
- Reduce Stress – When we’re stressed, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol. When your body’s making cortisol, it can’t make testosterone. Take time each day to do stress-free activities you enjoy.
- Check Your Meds – Some drugs inhibit the natural production of testosterone. These include opiod drugs like OxyContin, glucocorticoid drugs like prednisone, and anabolic steroids.
Supplements as a Treatment for Low Testosterone
DHEA can be found in over-the-counter supplements. However, their effectiveness and safety have not been verified by the FDA. As with anything you are unsure about, about health, you should talk to your physician, before taking supplements.
SIDE EFFECTS OF TESTOSTERONE THERAPY TREATMENTS
There are numerous possible side effects to prescription medication for low testosterone. These can range from minor irritations to life-threatening. Including:
- Increased risk of heart attack or stroke
- Blistering or other irritation of the skin, when using a transdermal patch
- Urination problems
- Ankle swelling
- Prolonged, frequent or bothersome erections
- Nausea, stomach pain, or low-grade fever
- Decreased blood sugar levels for diabetics
Additionally, when using transdermal testosterone therapy, those who may come into contact with you may be exposed to the testosterone.
BENEFITS OF TREATING LOW T
There are numerous benefits to treating low testosterone levels. In general, bringing your testosterone levels back within the normal range can make you feel like your old self again. Specifically, these include:
- Improved sexual desire, function and performance
- Improved bone density
- Increased muscle mass and strength
- Decreased body fat
- Better mood and quality of life
- More energy and better sleep
- Improve brain function and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s
- Better blood sugar regulation and decreased risk of diabetes
- More nitric oxide production and more oxygen delivered to cells
- Lower blood pressure
Additionally, many men report feeling more confident, more productive and have an enhanced feeling of well-being.
Testosterone is one of the most important hormones in your body. It not only is key to your libido, but also protects your body against a variety of other diseases. Treatments range from transdermal medications to injections or implants. Plus, there are things you can naturally do, to help your body with the production of testosterone. Once thought to be a normal, inescapable part of aging, you no longer have to suffer from lack of energy and lowered levels of desire, due to Low T.