Testosterone, an important hormone in the human body, decreases each year after age 30. In some men this decrease can be substantial. Between 19-39 percent of older men may have low levels of testosterone. It is not just older men that are affected by low testosterone. Young men can also have this problem.
Low testosterone, medically known as hypogonadism, is a real medical condition that can occur for a number of reasons. When a man’s testosterone falls below a level of around 300 ng/dL, it’s considered to be low. Read on to learn the causes and symptoms of low testosterone.
Symptoms of Low Testosterone
When you look at each of the signs and symptoms individually, you may not think they point to low testosterone. That’s because they may be difficult to tell, and may in fact be caused by other medical conditions. 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:
Physical Symptoms of Low Testosterone
- No or poor erection of the penis (erectile dysfunction).
- Decreased energy.
- Infertility (lowered sperm count).
- Breast growth.
- Increase in body fat.
- Decreased muscle and bone mass.
- Loss of body hair, reduced shaving.
- Changes in sleep habits: insomnia or sleep disturbances.
- Worsening of congestive heart failure.
- Worsening of sleep apnea.
Mental and Emotional Symptoms of Low Testosterone
What Causes Low Testosterone
Low levels of testosterone are linked with aging. Diseases of the glands that produce and control testosterone also cause low levels. As a men ages, his body makes less testosterone. However, it is abnormal for a man to have absolutely no interest in sex. This could be caused by significantly low levels of testosterone. Common causes of low testosterone include:
- Injury to the testicles: Injured testes are sometimes unable to produce the amount of testosterone a man needs. Interestingly, amounts can remain stable if only one testicle is injured. The healthy one can still produce enough testosterone on its own.
- Normal aging. Older men generally have lower testosterone levels than younger men do. As men age, there’s a slow and continuous decrease in testosterone production.
- Obesity. Some of a man’s testosterone is naturally converted to estrogen, a hormone usually associated with women. But men need estrogen, too, especially to maintain healthy bone density. The problem with obesity is that the conversion from testosterone to estrogen mainly happens in fat cells. The more fat cells you have, the more testosterone is being converted to estrogen, leading to lower testosterone levels.
- Hemochromatosis. Too much iron in the blood can cause testicular failure or pituitary gland dysfunction affecting testosterone production.
- Medications. Opiates, taken for pain, and certain hormones can cause problems with testosterone production.
- Infection. Mumps, meningitis, and syphilis are known to lower testosterone levels.
- Concurrent illness. The reproductive system can temporarily shut down due to the physical stress of an illness or surgery, as well as during significant emotional stress.
- Inflammation. Certain conditions and diseases, such as sarcoidosis, histiocytosis, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS can affect the pituitary gland and/or the hypothalamus because of inflammation.
- Cancer treatment. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy for the treatment of cancer can interfere with testosterone and sperm production.