Symptoms of low testosterone and its effects on men
Everyone knows that there’s a world of difference between males and females. The two sexes are different in so many ways that there has been an age old saying that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. We may all be made from flesh and blood, but there’s a lot that makes men and women apart.
The primary factor that makes a world of difference between men and women is our primary sex hormones. While women have estrogen, testosterone makes men men. This hormone is an androgen or the very thing that triggers the male characteristics in men, making it an essential component in their bodies. However, as testosterone is a hormone, it is essential to keep it at a healthy level so you can make full use of it.
Testosterone and Its Role in the Male Body
Being the major androgen in humans, testosterone plays one of the biggest roles in the male body. What does testosterone do, you might be wondering? Here are a few popular examples that can explain why this hormone is very important to your body.
1. Initiates the development of male characteristics right from the fetal stage.
Testosterone plays a huge role in a male’s body right off the bat as it affects you even as you develop right in the womb. It helps develop the internal and external components of the fetus, especially in the development of the male sex organ.
By the time a boy hits puberty, testosterone will continue to develop his male characteristics. It will induce growth spurts as well as hair growth and genital changes. This is the very reason why people say that testosterone makes men men, because it really does have a hand in the creation of a person’s male characteristics.
2. Regulates sex drive.
Testosterone also plays a huge role in a man’s sex drive. As it triggers the production of sperm, it also has a direct effect on the functioning of one’s penis which gives higher sexual desire.
3. Helps in sperm and red blood cell production.
Testosterone, like other androgens, have an erythropoietic stimulating effect. This results to polycythemia that is manifested through the increase in red blood cells, which promises increased stamina and better performance.
4. Increases and strengthens bone and muscle mass.
As old bones need replacement as you age, new bones require a good amount of testosterone among other components to be rebuilt. This is one of the reasons why low T is blamed by many experts for male osteoporosis.
5. Ensures proper fat distribution.
What a lot of people tend to forget is the fact that the food they eat also affects the hormones they release. These hormones, in turn, can affect their body’s processes and functioning, which can affect their fat storage and formation, which can lead to weight gain.
This proves true for testosterone. This androgen apparently has control over where you can store fat, as the hormone can influence the proteins that trap fat. According to studies, men with low T store more fat in their thighs than men with normal testosterone levels. This can cause an imbalance in one’s fat-storage system and have unhealthy cells as a result.
6. Boosts competitiveness, cognitive ability, dominance, and tolerance for risk-taking among many others.
Competitiveness, drive, dominance and a penchant for taking risks are some of the traits common in men as these are triggered by testosterone levels. These can be good manifestations of aggressiveness, which is also said to be a common effect of testosterone. Several studies can attest to these effects of testosterone, helping explain the many different male instincts.
The Normal Testosterone Levels
With so many important functions, it’s a no-brainer that having normal testosterone levels in men is a must if they want to stay in shape and ensure the proper functioning of their bodies. This androgen is a lot more than just giving you the capacity to engage in sexual relations, so it shouldn’t be something that you ignore.
The only problem when it comes to determining whether you have normal T levels is the varying information about what’s actually the normal level. The methods used to measure testosterone levels are not yet standardized so the “normal” levels vary from one clinic to another. However, most experts agree that 300 to 1000 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) is considered as the normal range. A lot of doctors would prefer the count to be higher than 350, though, especially since the T levels decrease as you age.
To help you get a good grasp of the normal testosterone levels, here’s a chart of the average T levels by age:
|Age||Total Testosterone (ng/dL)|
According to studies, men reach their peak testosterone levels in their late teens to their early twenties. It will then decrease by 1% every year as you age. However, if you are on the higher end of the normal T levels spectrum, there are chances that you won’t have any problems even as you age.
While having normal levels of testosterone ensures proper body functioning, a lot of experts say that you shouldn’t just settle for this. Having optimal T levels should be your goal, so you can get the most out of this virile hormone.
However, just like the normal T levels, optimal T levels differ from one man to another. Some will get great results for having up to 600 ng/dL, while others will require more than 800 ng/dL. Because these numbers aren’t standardized yet, it can be tricky to find your optimal T levels. Some experts suggest that you aim for one that is higher than what’s normal for your age group.
What is Low Testosterone and Why is it a Cause for Alarm?
Low testosterone, as the name suggests, is a health condition wherein your body isn’t producing enough testosterone than necessarily. As testosterone plays such a crucial role in a man’s body, having low levels will surely throw your system out of whack.
Low T levels can lead to serious health problems, making it important for most men to work on their T levels to ensure their good health. Most men who have this issue suffer from osteoporosis as this hormone plays a major role in bone rebuilding. A lot of heart disease-related deaths are said to be caused by low testosterone levels.
The low testosterone symptoms are serious health issues that will need urgent attention as well. Being able to detect the problem right away can help minimize the risks and get rid of the problems the symptoms bring.
What are the Different Symptoms of Low Testosterone in Men?
How would you know if you have low testosterone levels? Here are some of the most popular low T symptoms that you should be on the lookout for:
If you’re starting to lag by lunchtime and you feel so tired after a little bit of exertion, it might be your low T level that’s zapping your energy.
As testosterone fuels your reproductive system, one of the major symptoms of low testosterone will naturally involve how your genitals work. Erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence or the inability to have or maintain an erection, should give you a head’s up if your testosterone levels are dipping.
Muscle Mass and Strength
With testosterone having a major role in creating high red blood cell count that helps distribute oxygen to the muscles, therefore building and strengthening it, low levels of this hormone can have a drastic effect on your muscles as well.
Gaining weight is another symptom of low testosterone levels in men. This is mostly because obesity and testosterone have a vicious cycle. Fat actually converts testosterone to estrogen, which can further lower your T levels. This, and the fact that low T levels also slows down one’s metabolism, more fat gets stored in the belly. This can also be the very reason why those with low testosterone experience back pains as they pack more weight in their midsection and their spinal column isn’t ready to take on the additional baggage.
According to experts, high cholesterol tends to cause low levels of testosterone. This is because cholesterol hardens the arteries which affect the blood flow in the body, including the testicles which affect the production of this androgen.
Treating low cholesterol can also have a major impact on one’s cholesterol levels as treatments can affect the production of HDL (a.k.a. good cholesterol). As the main function of HDL is to decrease the LDL (bad cholesterol), the decreased HDL means higher cholesterol levels that aren’t beneficial to your heart health. This is also the very reason why low testosterone levels put you at risk of heart diseases.
With lower T levels also comes weight gain, as mentioned above. Aside from the belly, though, you can also store fat in one’s breasts. Women’s boobs can attest to this, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that men can also have fatty breasts. However, this is not just because of the lower metabolism and targeted fat storage that low testosterone levels cause. This can also be attributed to the spike in estrogen the male body will get as weight gain metabolizes testosterone into such.
Back and Joint Pain
As testosterone also plays a huge role in rebuilding your bones, having too little of it can impact your spine and joints as well due to a lower bone density. It might feel like arthritis or you might even suspect your old mattress for these body pains, but if you spot other signs of low testosterone in conjunction with this issue, there’s a high likelihood that your T levels are pretty low.
As testosterone’s receptors are found in the brain’s memory center, scientists have also found out that those with low T also experience major memory issues. Men with low testosterone become forgetful, as evidenced by the fact that older men are more likely to be forgetful than senior ladies.
While there are conflicting studies regarding the relationship of low libido and low T levels, there’s no denying that these two actually affects each other. Many experts think that low testosterone lowers a man’s sex drive, while others say that low T level is caused by low libido. As the amount of “sex drive” is hard to quantify and differs from one person to another, identifying how low is low is a challenge in itself. In any case, these two have direct effects on each other and can really impact one’s sex life.
Lower Sperm Count
Low T also means lower sperm count as the hormone is actually required to produce sperm cells. Decreased testosterone tends to lower the production of FSH or the follicle stimulation hormone which helps sperm production. This, in combination with the lower sex drive, creates a fertility problem that makes reproduction a challenge for many couples.
Increased Refractory Period
The male refractory period (MRP) is what the recovery period men go through after sex. It’s characterized by the inability to get an erection that takes place after an ejaculation. Most men go through this phase, although, the length differs from one guy to another.
The MRP takes place because the body goes into an overdrive after an orgasm. The body secretes hormones like serotonin and prolactin which is the very cause of this MRP as it counteracts arousal. High amounts of this hormone prevent you from going for another round, but if you managed to not ejaculate after an orgasm (as these are two different things), you can keep on going and enjoy multiple O’s.
Ejaculation also leads to the release of neurotransmitters that not only causes the smooth muscles in the penis to relax but also dampens the release of dopamine and testosterone. Increased production of prolactin also further suppresses the secretion of testosterone, so you can’t get aroused again right away.
With lower testosterone levels, recovering from the MRP takes longer. As this androgen drives your libido, having little interest in sex can further dampen your mood and leave you unaroused.
Decreased Motivation and Ambition
Ambition is one of the things that drive men. They’re just wired to have a goal that they’re ready to attack by the moment they wake up. With lower testosterone, however, they lose this determination.
It has been a common knowledge for years now that low T levels go hand in hand with depression. Men with low T levels are up to four times at risk of experiencing depression than those with normal T levels.
The actual cause hasn’t been defined just yet, but experts are eyeing two possible causes. One is the fact that these men also experience decreased sex drive and irritability, which can cause their moods to suffer and develop into depression if not addressed right away. The second possible reason is the fact that testosterone may have effects on the production of serotonin, which is the hormone that regulates a person’s mood.
Women often experience irritability and moodiness, mostly due to their hormones. As males and females have the same hormones (albeit in varying levels), it shouldn’t come as a surprise that men can find themselves irritable on some days as well.
Low T levels on men are said to mimic the symptoms of low T and menopause on women. Combined with increased cortisol levels, it can result to what is often referred to as the “irritable male syndrome”.
What Causes Low Testosterone?
After pinpointing the different signs of low testosterone in men, the next thing that you might be interested in is the causes of low testosterone. While the decrease in T levels is normal among aging men, it should still cause an alarm if the count is dropping and if it’s a young male that’s experiencing the change. Also, more than five million men are afflicted with this health problem, making it a pressing concern among the populace.
Low testosterone causes can be easily identified through the two types of hypogonadism or the condition wherein the functional activity of the gonads is diminished. These two are:
Characterized by a physical condition that results to underactive testes, primary hypogonadism makes it difficult for the body to produce enough testosterone for optimal health and growth. These issues can either be inherited or acquired through a complication from an illness or an accident.
Some examples of the inherited conditions are the following:
- Hemochromatosis or the high iron levels in the blood that often causes pituitary damage or testicular failure.
- Klinefelter’s Syndrome which is found in men with an extra X chromosome.
- Undescended testicles where the testicles have failed to descend in the fetal stage.
Complications and accidents like mumps orchitis, cancer treatments, and physical injury to the testicles can also cause primary hypogonadism.
This type of hypogonadism refers to the low T level that is caused by hypothalamus or pituitary gland damage. As these parts of the brain control the secretion of hormones, issues in these regions can really affect one’s T levels.
Like primary hypogonadism, this can also be caused by inherited conditions such as:
- Kallman syndrome which is characterized by abnormal hypothalamus function.
- Inflammatory diseases that impact the said brain areas like sarcoidosis, tuberculosis, and histiocytosis.
- Pituitary disorders that are common results of drugs, tumors, and kidney problems.
- HIV/AIDS as it also damages the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, as well as the testes.
Other reasons that can cause secondary hypogonadism are:
- Obesity as gaining too much weight can really make the body go haywire.
- Aging as hormone production tends to decrease over time.
- Some medications like steroids and opioid pain meds tend to affect the hypothalamus and pituitary glands.
- Stress caused by suffering from other illnesses.
- Alcohol consumption also introduces oxidative damage to the testicular Leydig cells as well as other bodily tissues which lead to decreased testosterone levels inside the ballsack.
These are just a few of the causes why one can have low testosterone levels. Avoiding all of these can be very tricky, especially the ones involving genetics, so prevention can be a bit hard to do right now. Having a healthy diet and lifestyle will still be your best bet to keep your T levels up, but that won’t be a major guarantee that you won’t experience this complication in the future.
Do You Have Low Testosterone?
Regardless of what the cause, though, the experience of having low testosterone levels is all the same. If you’re already feeling the effects of low testosterone, the best way to make sure is to get diagnosed.
To do this, you’ll need to see a doctor and have your blood tested. Oftentimes, it’s the best to go in the morning as your testosterone levels are the highest during this time of day. You will also be subjected to a physical examination and a medical history check. If your doctor is convinced that you have low T levels, you will be referred to a specialist, which is either an endocrinologist or urologist.
Upon meeting your specialist, you might still have to go through further testing. An MRI or CT scan might be ordered as well as additional hormone tests before you are provided a treatment plan.
How to Manage Having Low T
If you can’t prevent having low testosterone, then the next best thing is to learn how you can properly manage the problem at hand. Once you’re diagnosed with low testosterone, there are a number of ways that can help you manage your condition. You will need to know the cause, however, so the right treatment plan can be put into place. Without recognizing the very reason why you’re suffering from low testosterone effects, you might not be able to treat it properly.
There are two major ways in managing low T levels. The first one is through testosterone replacement therapy which involves hormone supplementing. This can be done through topical gels, pills, patches, injections, or implants. Gels, pills, and patches are non-invasive, quick, and pain-free routes to get treated while the injections and implants will need to get under your skin to introduce the replacement hormone to your system.
The other method is through natural means. This mostly involves improving your body’s composition. Losing weight is a popular example of this, as you can consider obesity and testosterone as mortal enemies. Most experts recommend this method as it doesn’t have as many risks as the replacement therapy.
Choosing the right technique is important, however, as testosterone is easily transferred through skin contact. If you want to get the best results, you wouldn’t want the hormone transferring to someone else because that will mean you’ll get less and that you’ll be causing an increase of T levels for someone else.
If you’re often around women, you might also want to avoid using the topical options. Increased testosterone levels in women can cause a problem in their system as well, often leading to the polycystic ovaries syndrome, which can further lead to more serious complications including tumors and even cancer.
Regular blood testing will also be required once you’re going through testosterone replacement therapy. Doing this will let your doctors monitor how you’re doing and if the treatment is helping your condition improve. If you want to do your own monitoring, there’s also a lot of free resources that will help you calculate your T levels. It might not be as accurate as getting a blood test, but it might still help your efforts in boosting your testosterone production.
Important Precautions when Trying to Raise Your Testosterone Levels
Having an optimal to average testosterone levels will definitely improve your health and wellbeing. However, if your T levels have already dropped really low, trying to raise it up right away might feel like the best course of action for many. If you’re thinking of finding the fastest way to recover from this ordeal, hold that thought for a bit.
Hormones are a tricky thing and can wreak havoc on your body. This is particularly true for testosterone as having too little and too much of it can do bad things to you. Although having excessive testosterone is a rare thing, it doesn’t mean that rushing to raise your T levels is something you should do. In fact, there are a number of side effects of low testosterone treatments that can be quite bothersome.
If you’re wondering what these side effects are, just look at the women who have high T levels. Their common woes like acne, sleep apnea, breast or ankle swelling, and breathing difficulties are caused by testosterone, so these are also some of the most common things that might happen when adding more testosterone to your system.
There are also other more serious effects that additional testosterone can do to your body. Raised testosterone will also increase your red blood cell. While this is a good thing as it can strengthen the muscles, it can also cause clots and put you at risk of deep vein thrombosis. Some cardiac side effects can also take place.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy for Kids
Testosterone replacement therapy in young kids is something that you should do with utmost care. If low testosterone in young men causes delayed puberty in boys, treating it with this method should be done under strict supervision of a specialist. This therapy runs the risk of causing the bones to fuse prematurely and stop growing altogether. This, in turn, will stunt their growth and prevent them from reaching the full potential of their height, which can be a disadvantage for many.
Cancer and Testosterone
Cancer is another potential risk that stems from low testosterone levels. While low T levels aren’t the very reasons to develop cancer cells, its treatment can exacerbate the growth of existing prostate cancer cells. This means that the hormone replacement therapy can trigger a severe reaction from the body if you already have the problem, to begin with. Noncancerous prostate growth is also possible even if you don’t have the ailment yet.
Testosterone Therapy and the Promotion of Youth and Vitality
Optimal testosterone levels promise virility that men at their peak have, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that testosterone therapy may seem like a great way for mature men to get back in top shape. A number of healthy seniors might find themselves interested in this treatment to feel young again, but it should be noted that there’s no clear guarantee that they’ll benefit largely from taking these medications.
As this therapy has serious risks, it might even be best to ditch the idea altogether if you don’t really need it. Studies done on healthy men taking this therapy didn’t really provide promising results, so it might not really be what you’re looking for if you just want to boost the body’s great shape.
Dealing with Low Testosterone
A good portion of the low testosterone effects in the body may not seem like much to a lot of people but in reality, it’s a serious problem that can cause major complications later on. Addressing this hormonal imbalance is essential to keep your body in top shape, so you need to make sure to take the proper steps to handle the problem right away.
This is an even more pressing issue for young men as low testosterone levels can really affect their lives. Not only will it stunt the growth of pre-pubescent boys and delay their physical development, but it can also cause unnecessary torment and stress to such young people. The low sperm count this hormone problem can cause will also bring undue duress to young adults who are trying to start their own families, which can make or break relationships and set the tone for a lot of young people’s lives.
Handling low T levels is easier to do now more than ever. So don’t hesitate to seek help if you suspect that you’re suffering from this health issue.