Low testosterone levels in men is a real problem that can be debilitating in many ways. This articles explains the various signs that are often attributed to low T.
What Is Testosterone?
Testosterone is the male sex hormone that is made in the testicles. Testosterone hormone levels are important to normal male sexual development and functions.
When boys go through puberty, testosterone is what helps boys develop male features like a deeper voice, body and facial hair, and muscle strength. Testosterone is needed for men to make sperm. As men age beyond 30m testosterone levels generally decreases, so older men tend to have low blood testosterone levels.
Symptoms of Low Testosterone in Men
Low testosterone manifests a variety of symptoms that affect men. If you are suffering from any or all of these symptoms, you may have low T.
Low sex drive
Men’s testosterone levels are key to maintaining libido levels. As they age, sex drive tends to decline, but when testosterone is abnormally low then libido can be almost non-existent.
Along with testosterone’s important role in men’s sex drive, it is also a factor in the ability to get and maintain an erection. Erections aren’t the direct cause of erections, but it does stimulate the brain to produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide triggers a chemical reaction that makes erections happen.
Erectile dysfunction isn’t only caused by low T. There are any other factors that could be the cause. If you consistently have trouble getting an erection, you should see a doctor to explore the possible causes.
Low T in men can cause testicles or even the penis to shrink in size. Low testosterone isn’t always the sole cause however.
Decrease in Muscle Mass
Muscle atrophy, or a wasting of muscle mass could be a sign of low T. Testosterone plays a large role in maintaining muscle mass.
Testosterone affects healthy growth. Many men start to go bald as they age. This can be due to hereditary balding, but low T can be responsible for body as well as head hair loss.
Decreased Bone Mass
Thinning of the bones (Osteoporosis) not only affects women, it can also be a symptom of low T in men. Testosterone helps to maintain bone thickness and older men tend to lose volume as T levels drop, making them more susceptible to bone breaks and fractures.
Increased Body Fat
Men with low T tend to gain weight through increased body fat. An imbalance between testosterone and estrogen can cause gynecomastia, or enlarged breasts known as “bitch tits”.
Extreme fatigue and low energy levels are symptoms that can signal that a man is low on testosterone. Being tired all the time even though you’ve had plenty of sleep, or you can’t get the energy to get through your daily routine, chances are you’re low on T.
According to studies, declines in testosterone levels can be associated with memory loss and cognitive function. These studies have shown that increasing testosterone levels in ageing men helps to restore these important brain functions.
Testosterone affects many of the processes in the body including the brain. Low T in men can induce depression, confusion, and bad moods generally.
Low Blood Count (Anemia)
Anemia can cause dizziness, concentration problems, cramping, lack of sleep, and increased heart rate. Medical researchers have found that men with low T levels are susceptible to low a blood count.
What causes Low Testosterone in Men?
Testosterone levels start to decrease in men each year after age 30. In some men this can be substantial. Studies have shown that between 19 and 39 percent of older men may have lower than optimal levels of testosterone.
It’s not just older men that are affected by low T. Young men, even babies and children, can also have this problem.
Testosterone in the body: free T vs. total T
Most testosterone in men is produced in the testicles as the result of a complicated series of biochemical processes that convert cholesterol into T. Some testosterone is also produced by the adrenal gland.
Testosterone molecules are then secreted directly into the bloodstream. From there, where many of them are bound to other molecules. This process is called sex hormone binding globulin, or SHBG. Other testosterone molecules bind to albumin, a type of blood protein.
What is Free Testosterone?
The testosterone molecules in the bloodstream that don’t bind to other molecules are known as “free testosterone”, or “free T”. These bioavailable testosterone molecules, being unbound, can be used by the body to regulate metabolism and other cellular functions, while those that are bound to other molecules cannot perform that function.
What is total testosterone?
Total testosterone measures the total amount of testosterone you have in your blood —both free and bound.
You’ll have lower levels of free T if you have more SHBG. The more SHBG molecules in your blood, a greater amount of your testosterone will be bound and not free to regulate metabolism etc.
Free testosterone vs. total testosterone
If a man is experiencing symptoms of hypogonadism (a kind of androgen deficiency that can be caused by low testosterone), such as low libido, concentration problems, confusion, and consistently low energy. Testing for testosterone levels may show that his total T level is perfectly normal, even though he’s suffering from symptoms of low T.
Symptoms of testosterone deficiency aren’t only caused by the total amount of testosterone in your blood. The level of free and bioavailable testosterone is also important because free T is needs to be available in the bloodstream. Even though your total T level is normal, you can still suffer from symptoms from a deficiency in testosterone because you don’t have normal free testosterone levels and high SHBG levels in the bloodstream.
By specifically testing your free T levels, you could find that you have a deficiency even if your total levels are normal. This is why total T levels can be misleading.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of low T, a lifestyle change might make a difference.
A good first step is getting into some regular exercise and changing to a healthy diet to reduce body fat. It can also be helpful to avoid glucocorticoid medications such as prednisone and opioid pain medications.
If lifestyle changes are not working for you, you may need to try testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) for treatment of low T. TRT can be very important for helping teenage males with hypogonadism to experience normal masculine development. Raising free testosterone to sufficient levels can help maintain health and well-being in adult males.