Testosterone is a hormone found in humans. Men have much
higher levels of testosterone than women. Production increases during puberty
and starts to decrease after age 30. For each year over age 30, the level of
testosterone in men starts to slowly dip at a rate of around 1 percent per
year. A decrease in testosterone level is a natural result of aging.
What does this natural hormonal decrease really mean? What
symptoms or side effects accompany a loss of the male hormone? Testosterone
helps maintain a number of important bodily functions in men, including:
- sex drive
- sperm production
- muscle mass/strength
- fat distribution
- bone density
- red blood cell production
Because testosterone affects so many functions, its decrease
can bring about significant physical and emotional changes.
One of the biggest worries faced by men with declining
testosterone levels is the chance that their sexual desire and performance will
be affected. As men age, they can experience a number of symptoms related to
sexual function that may be a result of lowered levels of this hormone. These
- reduced desire for sex
- fewer erections that happen spontaneously, such as
dysfunction (ED) is not commonly caused by insufficient testosterone
production. In cases where ED accompanies lower testosterone production,
hormone replacement therapy may help your ED.
Testosterone is the hormone most responsible for sex drives
and high libidos in men. A decrease in testosterone can mean a decrease in
libido, fewer spontaneous erections, and a slightly lower sperm count. None of
these side effects should happen suddenly. If they do, there could be other
issues at play.
A number of physical changes can happen to your body if you
have low testosterone levels. Testosterone is sometimes referred to as the
“male” hormone. It helps increase muscle mass, leads to body hair, and contributes
to an overall masculine form. Decreases in testosterone can lead to physical
changes including the following:
- increased body fat
- decreased strength/mass of muscles
- fragile bones
- decreased body hair
- swelling/tenderness in the breast tissue
- hot flashes
- increased fatigue
- effects on cholesterol metabolism
Despite that fact that it can cause lower energy levels, low
testosterone can also cause insomnia
and other changes in your sleep patterns. Unfortunately, testosterone
replacement therapy may contribute
to or cause sleep apnea. This is a serious problem that causes your
breathing to stop and start repeatedly while asleep. It can greatly disrupt
your sleep in the process.
On the other hand, changes in the body that occur as a
result of sleep apnea can lead
to low testosterone levels
Even without the presence of sleep apnea
there is a strong correlation between low testosterone and a decrease in the
hours of sleep. It is unclear why it happens.
In addition to causing physical changes, having low levels
of testosterone can affect you on an emotional level. The condition can lead to
feelings of sadness or depression. It can also degrade your overall sense of well-being.
Some people have trouble with memory and concentration and experience lowered
motivation and self-confidence.
Testosterone is a hormone that affects emotional regulation.
Depression has been linked to men with low testosterone. This could result from
a combination of the irritability, decreased sex drive, and fatigue that can
come with low testosterone.
While each of the symptoms above may be a result of a
lowered testosterone level, they may also be normal side effects of aging.
Other reasons that you might experience some of these symptoms include:
- a thyroid condition
- injury to testicles
- testicular cancer
- type 2 diabetes
- side effects of medications
- alcohol use
- genetic abnormalities that affect the testicles
- pituitary gland problems
To determine what’s causing these symptoms for you, schedule
an appointment with your doctor and request a blood test. A blood test is the
only sure way to determine your testosterone level. Harvard Medical School (HMS) recommends a goal of
a testosterone level of 300–450 ng/dL (nanograms per deciliter) for men over 65
years of age. This is the midpoint of the normal range for the age group.
Regardless of the reason you’re experiencing low testosterone,
there are treatment options available to increase testosterone or reduce the
side effects you’re experiencing. Treatment options include the following:
Testosterone supplementation is an option for men
experiencing low testosterone. It can be delivered in several ways: injections into
the muscle every few weeks; patches or gels applied to the skin; a patch that
is applied inside the mouth; or pellets that are inserted under the skin of the
buttocks. Those who have experienced or are at a high risk of prostate cancer
should not use testosterone therapy.
Losing weight and being physically active
Exercising more and losing weight can help slow the decrease
of testosterone your body is experiencing.
Erectile dysfunction medication
If you’re most concerning symptom from lower testosterone is
erectile dysfunction, erectile dysfunction medications can help treat the
For those suffering from insomnia, sleeping medications can
help patients get more sleep.
If you’re experiencing any symptoms of low testosterone,
call your doctor and make an appointment. A diagnosis can be made with a simple
blood test, and there are a variety of treatment options available to you. Your
doctor can also help you determine if there’s an underlying cause triggering
your low testosterone.