For some men, the gradual reduction of testosterone that occurs as they age doesn’t cause problems. For others, low testosterone levels are an issue that may require medical intervention.
As men age, the level of testosterone they produce changes. The amount of testosterone a man produces is highest in his 20s, and begins to decline around age 30 to 35. If the amount produced drops too low, it can cause a variety of symptoms, including reduced sex drive, trouble getting or maintaining an erection, low sperm count, depression, low iron levels, reduced energy and increased amounts of body fat. This condition is called hypogonadism, or low T.
What Causes Low T?
The Official Foundation of the American Urological Association, Urology Care Foundation, estimates that four out of every 10 men age 45 or older live with low testosterone.
The hormone testosterone—which is responsible for male sexual development, muscle mass, facial hair and other typically male traits—is produced by the testes, and the amount created is controlled by the brain and pituitary gland. Certain medical conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, hormone disorders and immune disorders can cause low T. So can injury to the testes, some genetic conditions and long-term use of opioid medications.
Where to Look for Help
Since the symptoms of low testosterone overlap with a variety of conditions, certain steps such as a thorough medical history and exam may be used to rule out other issues that could be producing similar concerns.
Your doctor can diagnose low T with a simple blood test. Typically, this test is performed in the morning and repeated more than once to ensure an accurate diagnosis accounts for natural testosterone level fluctuation. Certain actions, such as exercise or being sick, can temporarily cause low testosterone levels. Checking levels a second time allows those levels to naturally rise and helps ensure an accurate diagnosis.
If you do suffer from low testosterone, your doctor may recommend making lifestyle changes or using hormone replacement therapy to alleviate your symptoms. These effective therapy options mean that many men who are diagnosed with low T don’t have to live with the uncomfortable consequences of their condition. As with all medical therapies, your doctor can help you decide if hormone replacement therapy or other treatments are appropriate for your current medical condition and treatment goals.