What is Testosterone?
Testosterone (T) is a hormone produced by the human body. Mainly produced by men in the testicles, testosterone affects a man’s appearance and sexual development. Testosterone is also responsible for the stimulation of sperm production, which activates the male sex drive, as well as muscle and bone mass. Production typically decreases with age and occurs in 3 out of 10 men typically in their 70s and 80s. A blood test called a serum testosterone test can be used to determine your level of circulating testosterone. Estimations are considered low when levels fall below 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL).
Low Testosterone Symptoms
A range of symptoms can occur if testosterone production drops below normal. Signs of low T are often subtle but should not go overlooked. Here’s what you need to know about low testosterone.
Low T Fatigue
Fatigue is often one of the most common signs of low testosterone. Men typically reported extreme fatigue and a decrease in energy levels. If you are finding it harder to get motivated or to exercise despite getting plenty of sleep, you may want to check with a doctor about having low T.
Testosterone is a key contributor to the male sex drive. While it is common for men over 50 to experience a decreased sex drive as they age, men with low T will likely experience a more sudden and drastic drop in their desire to have sex. If you notice any sudden changes within your sex life, consulting a urologist is a great step in the right direction.
Testosterone is released to activate the male sex drive but does not stop there. Although testosterone does not cause erections, it stimulates receptors in the brain to produce nitric oxide, a molecule that helps trigger a series of chemical reactions necessary for an erection to occur. If testosterone levels are too low, a man might have difficulty achieving an erection prior to sex or have trouble maintaining one during intercourse.
Changes With Your Body
Beginning at puberty, testosterone is responsible for supplying the building blocks to muscle development in men. It is not uncommon for men with lower levels of testosterone to notice a decrease in muscle mass. Low T can also have the opposite effect, particularly with increases in body fat. This effect is believed to occur due to an imbalance between testosterone and estrogen levels in men.
Lower Semen Volume
Upon ejaculation, DNA-filled fluid leaves the body through the shaft of the penis in hopes of reaching an egg to fertilize. To ensure the safety of the sperm during this journey, fluid called semen protects and aids in the motility of the microscopic sperm. Men with low testosterone will often notice a decrease in sperm volume during ejaculation.
Testosterone also plays a role in the production of hair. While balding is a natural part of aging for many people, men with low T may experience a loss of facial and body hair as well. This occurs when dihydrotestosterone (DHT), an enzyme derivative of testosterone, becomes too low and affects your hair follicles. Talk with your doctor about the cause of your hair loss to rule out any suspicions of low T.
Causes of Low Testosterone
Testosterone levels tend to drop in men as they age through their 40s. Although T levels drop, they should never completely drop as estrogen does in women experiencing menopause. While decreasing levels are natural in older men, low testosterone can occur in young men for various reasons. Drops in testosterone levels can be caused by illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, and chronic liver or kidney disease. Genetics also play a role in the causes of low T in younger men. Genetic diseases like Klinefelter syndrome, myotonic dystrophy, and hemochromatosis have all been linked with lower levels of testosterone. Other causes of low testosterone in men younger than 40 include pituitary gland tumors, HIV infection, radiation treatment or chemotherapy for cancer, and trauma to the groin.