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Low testosterone (Low T) is characterized by a deficiency of the male sex hormone testosterone. The effects of testosterone on the body include:
Low T can be caused either by an error in the communication between the brain and the testes, or by a malfunction of testosterone synthesis within the testes. Low testosterone can cause a variety of symptoms, including a reduced sex drive, mood changes, and erectile dysfunction. The incidence rates of low T increase with age, form 20% from men 60 and above to 50% for men over the age of 80.
While we typically associate testosterone with men, women also produce testosterone, which plays an important role in sexual health for both men and women. Testosterone stimulates sexual desire, libido, arousal, and increases sexual satisfaction—it also helps women maintain optimal body function by helping maintain bone density, muscle mass, and a healthy energy level. Women with low T can experience many of the effects that men do, like decreased libido, chronic fatigue, and low mood, but most often to a lesser degree than men. Due to serious side effects, doctors are very cautious about prescribing testosterone to women, and when they do, are extremely conservative with dosing.
Testosterone is produced when the brain signals the testes to make the hormone. If there is an error in this communication or if the testes malfunction and cannot produce the normal amount of testosterone, a person’s testosterone levels may fall to low levels. This failure to produce a sufficient amount of testosterone is known as hypogonadism. If low T occurs due to a malfunction in the testes, it is known as primary hypogonadism. If low T occurs due to an error in brain/testes communication, it is known as secondary hypogonadism.
According to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Advanced Pharmaceutical Technology and Research, the causes of hypogonadism are as follows:
The following factors may influence your risk of developing low testosterone:
Before arriving at a diagnosis of low T, your doctor may conduct the following tests:
Physical exam and medical history to assess your risk of developing low testosterone as well as record any symptoms and/or physical signs of the condition.
Blood tests to measure the level of testosterone in the blood. There are three forms of testosterone in the blood:
The normal range for testosterone levels is 300-1200 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dl). Testosterone levels below 300 ng/dl are considered to be low T.
The following may be symptoms of low testosterone:
Most cases of low T are treatable with testosterone therapy. The duration of the treatment depends largely on the cause of the low T. If the cause of low T is treatable, then it is possible that treatment will be temporary. However if the cause of low T is not treatable, testosterone therapy in some form may need to continue indefinitely.
Low testosterone is relatively hard to detect and is therefore not regularly screened for. Men at high risk for low T, such as:
may be tested for low T by their doctors at regular checkups. If you experience any of the symptoms of low testosterone, contact your doctor.
Certain causes of low testosterone are unpreventable. However, there are several things that you can do to lower your risk of developing low T. These include:
The main form of treatment for low T is testosterone therapy. Testosterone therapy comes in several different forms:
The following side effects may occur as a result of testosterone therapy:
The following alternative treatments may help boost testosterone levels:
If you feel that you are experiencing any of the symptoms of low T, contact a doctor.
If you are undergoing treatment for low T and experience any of the following, contact a doctor immediately:
**Contact emergency services, these may be signs of a heart attack
To find a urologist in your area, visit The Urology Care Foundation
You may want to ask your doctor the following questions:
For more information on low T, visit:
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