Could Your Testosterone Be Low?
Testosterone is the key male sex hormone that regulates fertility, muscle mass, fat distribution, and red blood cell production. Testosterone is the hormone responsible for the development of male sexual characteristics. Hormones are chemical messengers that trigger necessary changes in the body. Females also produce testosterone, usually in smaller amounts. In male body, testosterone regulates a number of processes and functions alongside sperm production. These include:
- sex drive
- bone mass
- fat distribution
- muscle size and strength
- red blood cell production
Without adequate amounts of testosterone, men become infertile. This is because testosterone assists the development of mature sperm.
Despite being a male sex hormone, testosterone also contributes to sex drive, bone density, and muscle strength in women. However, an excess of testosterone can also cause women to experience male pattern baldness and infertility. Testosterone levels are controlled by the brain and pituitary gland. Once produced, the hormone moves through the blood to carry out its various important functions.
While falling testosterone levels are a normal part of aging, certain conditions can hasten the decline. These include:
- injury or infection
- chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer
- medications, especially hormones used to treat prostate cancer and corticosteroid drugs
- chronic illness
When levels of testosterone drop below levels that are healthy, they are said to be imbalanced and can lead to conditions like hypogonadism or infertility. Levels of testosterone tend to drop as men age.
Low Testosterone, how low it can be and Its Symptoms
Testosterone decreases naturally with age. It is important to receive tests to determine whether any imbalances are due to an active condition. The bottom of a man’s normal total testosterone range is about 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL). The upper limit is about 800ng/dL depending on the lab.
High or low levels of testosterone can lead to dysfunction in the parts of the body normally regulated by the hormone.
When a man has low testosterone, or hypogonadism, he may experience:
- reduced sex drive
- erectile dysfunction
- low sperm count
- enlarged or swollen breast tissue
Over time, these symptoms may develop in the following ways:
- loss of body hair
- loss of muscle bulk
- loss of strength
- increased body fat
Chronic, or ongoing, low testosterone may lead to osteoporosis, mood swings, reduced energy, and testicular shrinkage.
There are, however, sources from which people with low testosterone can boost their levels and they include:
Skin patch: A patch is applied once every 24 hours, in the evening, and releases small amounts of the hormone into the skin.
Gels: Topical gels are spread daily onto the skin over both upper arms, shoulders, or thighs. It is important to wash your hands after applying and to cover the treated area with clothing to prevent exposing others to testosterone.
Mouth tablet: Tablets are attached to your gum or inner cheek twice a day. Testosterone is then absorbed into the bloodstream.
Pellets: These are implanted under the skin, usually around the hips or buttocks, and slowly release testosterone. They are replaced every three to six months.
Injections: Various formulations are injected every seven to 14 days. Testosterone levels can rise to high levels for a few days after the injection and then slowly come down, which can cause a roller-coaster effect, where mood and energy levels spike before trailing off.