Testosterone levels tend to decrease in men as they age, so low testosterone is a fairly common condition.Also known as male hypogonadism, low testosterone affects almost 40% of men once they pass age 45. This condition occurs when the testicles stop producing enough of the male sex hormone testosterone. Testosterone is important to the development and maintenance of muscles, bone density, sexual function and adequate levels of red blood cells.
Causes of Low Testosterone
In most cases, low testosterone is a result of the body’s natural decrease in the production of the hormone, which can start as early as age 30. The production rate can drop by as much as 1% a year.
Other contributing factors to low testosterone include:
- Testicle injuries or infections
- Pituitary gland dysfunction
- Alcohol abuse
- Kidney failure
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Radiation exposure
Symptoms of Low Testosterone
The symptoms of this condition will vary depending on the age of the individual. Some of the most prominent symptoms include:
- Decreased sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
- Loss of muscle mass
- Concentration and memory problems
Other changes that lower testosterone can cause include increased body fat, osteoporosis and a decrease in body hair.
Diagnosis of Low Testosterone
The fastest way to diagnose low testosterone is to perform blood tests to determine the patient’s testosterone levels. More than one test will likely be needed to confirm the diagnosis, as a man’s testosterone levels tend to fluctuate greatly throughout the day. Many doctors prefer to have the blood tests performed in the morning, as this is when a patient’s testosterone levels are usually the highest.
Treatments for Low Testosterone
Low testosterone can be treated through testosterone replacement therapy, which can be provided in several different ways. Options include:
- Intramuscular injections every 10-14 days
- The daily application of testosterone gels
- Daily use of testosterone patches
- Pellets that are implanted under the skin
Side effects of testosterone therapy can include acne, fluid retention, worsened sleep apnea, testicle shrinkage and a decrease in sperm count.
Men who are experiencing low testosterone can receive expert treatment at Tampa General Hospital.