Testosterone is a steroid hormone produced in the adrenal glands of both sexes (in the testes of males and the ovaries of females). Testosterone is largely responsible for the formation and maintenance of male sex characteristics, including both the larger bone and muscle development seen in males. Low testosterone is the reduced or absent production of testosterone from the testicles affecting characteristics such as sex drive, energy level, mood, muscle mass, muscle strength, fat distribution and bone mass.
Symptoms of Hypogonadism
Signs of low testosterone (Low T) can often be subtle and, in many cases, are written off as a normal sign of aging. When testosterone production drops or ceases, a range of symptoms and complications can occur, such as:
- Sexual dysfunction (unable to maintain erections)
- Reduced sex drive (reduced sexual activity)
- Decreased energy
- Reduced muscle mass
- Depressed mood
- Increase in body fat
- Decrease in bone strength
- Loss of body hair, reduced shaving
What Causes Hypogonadism?
Although testosterone levels will naturally decline as you age, there are a number of things that can also impact testosterone levels. It is important you take the time to learn how your testosterone levels are impacted by your daily habits so you do not suffer from low testosterone. Some of the most common causes of low-testosterone include:
- Injury to the testicles
- Brain/pituitary problems
- Poor Sleep Cycle/Insomnia
- Lack of exercise
How Is Hypogonadism Diagnosed?
Low testosterone is diagnosed by measuring the amount of testosterone in the blood with a blood test. It may take several measurements to determine if a patient has low testosterone, since levels tend to change throughout the day. The highest levels of testosterone are generally in the morning, near 8:00 a.m. This is why doctors prefer to measure testosterone levels in the early morning.
How Is Hypogonadism Treated?
Men with confirmed low testosterone levels may be advised to begin a testosterone replacement regimen. If you have signs and symptoms of low testosterone that bother you, there are several choices for raising the levels. Not everyone chooses treatment. Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) can be given using:
- Skin gel
- Long-acting pellets that are implanted under the skin every two months
Discuss the benefits and risks of taking testosterone replacement therapy with your doctor. You should not be taking TRT if you do not have low levels of testosterone.
The outlook for a patient with low-T may range from good to fair; depending on the person’s response to treatment and their age (older patients may not respond as well to treatment). Those patients diagnosed and treated late in the disease process may suffer muscle loss and osteoporosis.