Mayo Clinic Minute: Low Testosterone Symptoms
Signs and Symptoms of Low Testosterone
Tired? Feeling blue? Low libido? This vague collection of symptoms may just seem like a slump, but it could actually be caused by low testosterone, also called hypogonadism or low T.
As with all hormones, testosterone levels can change. Experts estimate that more than 4.5 million men in the United States have low testosterone levels. Signs of low testosterone include difficulty achieving an erection and shifts in your body fat and muscle mass. These signs and symptoms might not seem urgent to treat, but they still deserve attention because low testosterone can affect your long-term health and quality of life. What’s more, low testosterone can itself be a symptom of a more serious health condition.
What Is Low Testosterone?
“Testosterone is known as the ‘male’ hormone — both men and women produce testosterone, but men produce tenfold more,” explains Alan Shindel, MD, director of men’s health at the University of California, Davis, Health System in Sacramento. Testosterone in men, which is made by male reproductive glands called the testes, is responsible for the development of typically masculine characteristics during puberty, such as a deeper voice and facial hair. During adulthood, testosterone helps maintain your sex drive and appears to play a role in keeping your overall physical health on track.
According to guidelines from the Endocrine Society, healthy ranges of testosterone in men can vary widely, but low testosterone accompanied by symptoms most likely appears when your blood testosterone level is below 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL).
Signs and Symptoms of Low Testosterone
Low testosterone can sneak up on you over time, with symptoms you might attribute to stress on the job, for example, or an over-demanding schedule. Some of the common signs and symptoms of low testosterone are:
Call your doctor if you’re experiencing some or all of these signs and symptoms, Dr. Shindel advises, especially if they’re new to you or if they persist despite efforts to change them.
“There are lots of reasons why a man might experience these symptoms,” Shindel says. You might need more exercise, a better diet, stress management, or just more sleep. But you could also find out that your symptoms are due to low testosterone levels.
Diagnosing Low Testosterone
A simple blood test ordered by your doctor will show your testosterone levels. This result, along with a physical examination and a description of your symptoms, can determine low testosterone.
Your doctor might order more than one blood test to verify that you have low testosterone. That's because testosterone levels can vary throughout the day. Typically one of these tests will be done in the morning, the time of day when testosterone levels are highest.
Untreated, low testosterone can cause other health conditions, such as reduced bone density or fertility problems. It also could be the result of another underlying condition. Because of this, your doctor may order additional tests to pinpoint its cause. Possible underlying conditions include:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Hormonal disorders
- Testicular cancer
- Injury to the testicles
Once you have the answers you need, your doctor can map out a treatment plan to help get your testosterone levels back into a normal, healthy range and to address any underlying medical causes.
Video: Patient Education Video: Low Testosterone
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