What’s Low Testosterone? Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Therapy, and Prevention
Low testosterone levels, or “low T” can affect men and women equally.
Testosterone, the primary sex hormone in men, is produced mainly in the testicles and induces men to develop a voice that is deep, large muscles, and body hair.
Testosterone is also vital for the production of sperm.
When amounts of testosterone fall — known as low testosterone or “low T” — it can have a profound impact on men, both emotionally and physically.
Normal amounts of testosterone in healthy men range from approximately 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) up to 1,000 ng/dL, based on Medline Plus.
The normal range is wide and varies by age. In older men, the lower end of”normal” may be lower than in younger guys.
Levels of testosterone in the male body grow during and after puberty, and then slowly decline after age 30.
This gradual lowering of testosterone can be referred to as andropause or male menopause.
Testosterone amounts may also be reduced in men with hypogonadism, a condition where the body is unable to produce normal levels of testosterone.
Hypogonadism can happen due to a problem with the testicles or together with the adrenal gland, which controls the testicles.
Obesity, having medical conditions such as autoimmune disorders or type two diabetes, or using drugs including alcohol or opioids, can also contribute to low levels of testosterone.
Testosterone and Women
Girls also produce testosterone, but less than men: A typical testosterone level in women is 15 to 70 ng/dL according to Medline Plus.
In women, testosterone is produced in the ovaries and the adrenal glands.
Much like men, low T women may be caused by many different medical ailments in addition to advancing age.
In the years leading up to menopause, girls normally experience a drop in testosterone levels.
Low levels of women may be related to decreased libido, low energy, and depressed mood.
There’s some evidence that testosterone replacement treatment may increase sex drive and help with other sexual difficulties in some women.
But the long-term security of this treatment is unknown, and some experts say it may increase the risk of breast cancer, though there’s yet to be conclusive evidence.
Presently, testosterone preparations aren’t approved for use in women by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Signs and Symptoms of Low Testosterone
Male hypogonadism can be present from birth or may develop later in life as a result of injury or infection.
In babies, symptoms of hypogonadism include:
- Ambiguous genitalia
- Female genitalia (in a genetically male kid)
- Underdeveloped male genitalia
In boys around the age of puberty, symptoms include:
- Insufficient muscle mass growth
- No deepening of the voice
- Lack of facial and body hair
- A slow increase in the size of the penis and testicles
- Arms and legs that rise out of proportion to the rest of the body
In men, symptoms of hypogonadism include:
- Low sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction (ED)
- Sparse body or facial hair
- Growth of breast tissue
Since the level of testosterone in the body decreases with age, men can also experience:
- Decreased sex drive
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in sleep patterns
However, these signs are nonspecific, meaning that they can be caused by a number of factors, not just low testosterone.
Treatment and Medicine Alternatives for Low Testosterone
Male hypogonadism is diagnosed according to symptoms, blood tests of testosterone level, along with other laboratory tests, as needed.
It is typically treated with testosterone replacement therapy and other therapies, depending on what is causing low T.
In men who are obese, or who have an underlying medical condition such as diabetes that could contribute to low T, losing weight or handling the underlying condition often causes testosterone levels to normalize.
In recent years, many advertising dollars have been spent on boosting testosterone replacement therapy to middle-aged guys experiencing these symptoms like fatigue and low libido.
Whether treating these men with testosterone is safe or proper, however, is an issue of some controversy. Some physicians are strongly in favor of this, while others are considerably more cautious.