Low T 101 – The Symptoms and Effects of Low Testosterone
While testosterone is often mistakenly linked to aggressive behavior in men, it plays a vital part in regulating bodily functions and overall health. Both men and women produce and need testosterone, but men require significantly greater levels. Testosterone is the hormone produced in the testes that give men their “manly” characteristics, such as a deep voice, facial hair, and strength. It also helps regulate their sex drive and produce red blood cells and sperm.
Can You Have Too Much Testosterone?
The answer to this is yes and no. Most men will never have to worry about the overproduction or excess of naturally occurring testosterone. Of course, what that means isn’t exactly clear either. Testosterone levels can vary depending on the day and other physical and emotional factors. However, some men take anabolic steroids or testosterone injections to increase their testosterone levels for strength and muscle production. This is very distinct from men who require more testosterone to treat a deficiency. Excess testosterone can cause a host of physical and emotional problems.
By the time a man reaches his 40s, testosterone production starts to wane; by their 50s, men often notice physical changes from declining testosterone levels. It’s a fact – all men will produce less testosterone as they age. Testosterone levels are estimated to drop by about 1 to 2% yearly. Further, sex hormone binding globulin increases with age, meaning free testosterone in the body is reduced. Here are some tell-tale symptoms and long-term effects of having low testosterone.
Symptoms of Low T
Short-term symptoms of Low T include:
- Decreased Libido and Erectile Dysfunction: Testosterone is the hormone responsible for a man’s sex drive and ability to perform. Men with low testosterone often have difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection. As their testosterone drops, so too might their libido.
- Weight Gain: Low testosterone may lead to increased weight gain; men may also develop gynecomastia – enlarged breast tissue – resulting from an imbalance between a man’s testosterone and estrogen levels.
- Hair Loss: Because testosterone is the hormone responsible for hair growth, decreasing testosterone levels often results in hair thinning on the scalp and hair loss on the body.
- Fatigue: Sleeping later, dozing off, and lacking the motivation to exercise may be due to a demanding schedule and low testosterone.
- Inflammation: Inflammation is the body’s natural response to pain and injury. In men with low testosterone, chronic inflammation is exacerbated.
As you can see, testosterone plays an integral part in several body systems. If your testosterone levels are low, you won’t feel great.
The long-term effects of low T can have a severe impact on your health, including:
- Heart disease – testosterone is involved in red blood cell production. Insufficient testosterone means reduced red blood cell production and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Osteoporosis – Testosterone helps your body build and maintain healthy bones. Low T is associated with lower bone density, leading to osteoporosis.
- Depression – low T affects your mood, and along with the other effects on your body and energy level, depression can be a severe side effect of low testosterone.
- Infertility – testosterone is responsible in part for sperm production. Low sperm count can prevent conception.
Misconceptions About Low Testosterone
Only older men have low T: Low T is more common among older men but can affect men of any age. If you have any of the symptoms listed above, you should see a urologist and get tested. A physical injury to the pituitary gland or testes can affect testosterone production. And many men with type 2 diabetes have low T.
Low T is just part of getting older: Growing older doesn’t mean low testosterone levels. We all experience hormone levels throughout life fluctuations, but clinically low testosterone levels are not typical and can be treated at any age. Low T can seriously affect your quality of life, and treating it can make a huge difference!
Hormone replacement therapy is a cure for low T: Hormone replacement therapy can be an effective treatment for low T, but your physician and hormone levels must be monitored as treatment progresses. If your body stops making sufficient testosterone, raising the story is an ongoing process that must be carefully managed.
Treating Low Testosterone
Determining whether you have low T is simple. See your urologist for a blood test that will indicate whether your testosterone levels are too low or in a reasonable range. You can discuss treatment options and any concerns about the safety and effectiveness of hormone replacement therapy.
If your urologist recommends testosterone replacement therapy, several options exist. Your urologist will assess your overall health and will offer to work in partnership with your medical specialists to ensure your treatment addresses all your symptoms. Your urologist may also recommend specific lifestyle changes, like re-evaluating your diet and exercise regime and reducing stress.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can raise testosterone levels and eliminate symptoms. Because of some possible side effects, HRT is not appropriate for everyone. Men with prostate cancer should not have HRT as it can cause prostate growth or worsen prostate cancer. You and your urologist can decide if HRT is suitable for you.
Dr. Richard Natale is a board-certified urologist at Carolina Urology. If you suspect you have low T, call (704) 786-5131 with your questions or for your consultation today. We have offices in Concord or Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s a good idea for all men to schedule an appointment with a urologist as they age, especially if they notice signs that testosterone levels aren’t what they should be.