"After age 30, most men begin to experience a gradual decline in testosterone," states David Samadi, MD, chairman of the urology department at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Though testosterone levels never reach zero (as estrogen levels do in women during menopause), low testosterone levels men to experience symptoms such as fatigue, low libido, and loss of muscle mass.
While reduced testosterone is more common in older men, it may occur in younger men as well. Luckily, all of the causes of low testosterone in young guys are treatable, so in the event that you experience these symptoms at any given age, there's no reason to dismiss it.
For younger men, a fall in testosterone levels can be brought on by some illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, diabetes, chronic liver or liver disease, COPD or other lung disease, or adrenal gland issues, according to Dr. Samadi.
Genetic causes of low testosterone in males include the diseases Klinefelter syndrome, Kallmann syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, and Myotonic dystrophy. Another disorder which can result in low testosterone is hemochromatosis, making the body store too much iron.
"Low testosterone can also result when something happens, like trauma or steroid use, that prevents the testes from making the hormone," states Bruce Gilbert, MD, PhD, an adjunct clinical professor of urology and reproductive medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and director of reproductive and reproductive medicine at the Smith Institute for Urology of the North Shore-LIJ Health System.
Additional causes of low testosterone in men younger than 50 include pituitary gland tumors, HIV disease, and radiation therapy or chemotherapy for cancer.
Doctors categorize causes of low testosterone as primary or secondary.
"Primary hypogonadism stems from a problem in the testicles," Samadi states. "This could be from a developmental issue, injury to the testicles, or radiation or chemotherapy treatment. In secondary hypogonadism, the testicles are normal but function improperly because of a problem with the hypothalamus or pituitary gland."
Can It Be Low Testosterone?
Irrespective of the cause, low testosterone symptoms are the same.
"Symptoms include low libido, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, decreased mental acuity, and moodiness," Dr. Gilbert states.
"Younger men with low testosterone usually come to me and say, 'I can't work out like I used to, and I've lost interest in sex.’ ”
Your doctor can diagnose low testosterone with a blood test.
If your blood test reveals low testosterone (usually defined as a level lower than 300 ng/dL), the doctor may treat you or refer you to a specialist, such as a urologist or endocrinologist.
"When it comes to treating low testosterone in younger men, we usually reserve treatment for those who have symptoms, such as fatigue and low libido," Gilbert says.
In men who don't make the hormone in their testes because of a condition such as Klinefelter syndrome, or those who have lost their testes because of cancer, the only option is testosterone replacement therapy.
In these circumstances,"treatments are usually used only in the short term, and when a doctor has close observation and knowledge of the patient," Gilbert says.
An important consideration for younger men before getting treatment is fertility. "You don't want to give supplemental testosterone to men who want to be fertile because it can turn off sperm production," Gilbert says.
Once a young man goes off testosterone supplementation, there's a chance his sperm count will never return to what it was before he started. "Therefore, men of reproductive age should consider alternatives that might increase their testosterone in addition to maintain their semen production," he states. 1 such choice is a class of drugs called selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs).
Other treatments for low testosterone include weight loss and other lifestyle changes, such as eating healthier and raising exercise.
The main point, however, is that if you have low testosterone symptoms, it's very important to see your physician. Then, your doctor can rule out more significant causes of your symptoms, including hypertension or a thyroid problem, and offer treatment that can improve your power and high quality of life.