You probably think testosterone comes into play only when you’re in the bedroom, or perhaps when you’re cheering for your favorite team. But this male hormone is fundamental to your health. Have you started to gain weight for no real reason? Declining levels of testosterone could be the issue. Are you getting irritated easily, or maybe even feeling a little down, again for no real reason? Your mood swings could have a traceable physical cause. If your testosterone is at unhealthy levels, you should know about it — because there are simple steps you can take to return your body to normal.
What Should Your Testosterone Levels Be?
Testosterone, which is the primary male hormone, is produced in your testicles. It clicks into high gear at puberty. Remember how your voice changed, your muscles started to get some real definition, your facial hair sprouted, and you started to be interested in sex as a teenager? All that was because of testosterone surging to adult levels.
Those levels spike upwards at puberty and continue to increase through your 20s and into your 30s. And that’s when they change direction. Starting sometime in the 30s, men’s testosterone levels start to decline a little bit every year, typically around 1% annually.
The normal level of testosterone can vary significantly from one man to the next. Anywhere between 300 and 1,000 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) is considered normal. Once your testosterone levels drop below 300 ng/dL, however, you’ve left the normal zone and can be clinically diagnosed as having low testosterone or testosterone deficiency.
This diagnosis is more common that you might expect. In fact about 40% of men over age 45 have low testosterone numbers, and that percentage increases as you grow older. So if you’ve been diagnosed with testosterone deficiency, or if you suspect that low testosterone levels are behind the symptoms you’re experiencing, you should know that you’re far from alone.
You’re more likely to experience low testosterone numbers if you have any of several co-occurring medical conditions, including:
- Hormonal imbalances in the pituitary gland
- Male hypogonadism, or testicular failure
- Injuries to the testicles
- AIDS or HIV
- Prostate and other cancers
- Metabolic syndrome (characterized by high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and belly fat)
- Klinefelter Syndrome and other rare genetic syndromes
In addition, you can develop low testosterone levels through overexercising or using steroids. Men who are overweight are also prone to low testosterone levels, with a 500% greater chance of developing testosterone deficiency. In addition, malnutrition can contribute to issues with testosterone levels.
It’s also possible to develop overly high testosterone levels, though this is much less common, especially with age. If your testosterone levels are over 1,000 ng/dL, your doctor will want to check for tumors on your adrenal glands or testicles. If you’re using anabolic steroids, you can also end up with unhealthily high levels of testosterone.
Symptoms of Low Testosterone
When your testosterone levels are low, the most obvious signs may be happening in the bedroom. But unhealthy low testosterone levels can affect your body and even your mood in many ways, some of which are less obviously related to hormonal levels.
Sexual Symptoms of Low Testosterone
Many men with erectile dysfunction can trace their problem to low levels of testosterone, which also often results in a diminished sex drive or libido. These signs are the ones that most often drive men to the doctor seeking help. In addition, decreased testosterone levels can also result in a decline in fertility.
Physical Symptoms of Low Testosterone
All those signs that you’ve chalked up to getting older? There’s a fair chance that what you’re actually seeing is the result of low testosterone levels. For many men, the decline in testosterone shows up at the gym, where you may experience weight gain, difficulty building muscle, and loss of lean muscle mass.
You may also find yourself fatigued more easily, wondering why you don’t have the energy you had some years ago. Loss of body hair is also a sign of testosterone deficiency, as is a decrease in your beard growth. Many men find that they’ve developed diabetes and heart disease — and while many other factors come into play here, testosterone deficiency is certainly a potential contributor to these conditions. In fact, studies show that low testosterone may increase your risk of death due to heart disease. And you’re not likely to experience actual symptoms of the osteoporosis that can result from low testosterone levels — not until you find yourself with a broken bone.
Mental Health Symptoms of Low Testosterone
Testosterone is a whole-body hormone that also affects your brain. If you have testosterone deficiency, you may experience a wide range of mental health symptoms that include irritability, mood swings, and depression. You may also find yourself experiencing memory lapses from time to time, and you may find it hard to focus or concentrate. Some men also find themselves battling insomnia as a result of their low testosterone levels.
Treating Your Low Testosterone Levels
The good news is that treatment is available for testosterone deficiency. It begins with a simple blood test that can confirm your testosterone levels. Your doctor will probably ask you to take that test first thing in the morning, because that’s when your testosterone levels are highest.
If your testosterone levels are indeed below 300 ng/dL, your doctor will probably recommend testosterone replacement therapy. In a few cases, you may not be a good candidate for testosterone replacement therapy. For example, if you have prostate cancer, you should avoid treatment for low testosterone, and heart disease may also make you a poor candidate for the treatment.
You have a wide range of options available to you when it comes to testosterone replacement therapy. Each version of the therapy has its pros and cons, depending on your personal preferences and lifestyle, and all of them deliver reliable testosterone, which is a safe, trusted therapy.
Among the delivery methods available to you for treatment are the following:
- Testosterone injections: If you’re okay with needles, this may be your testosterone delivery system of choice. Long-acting injections go into a muscle, boosting testosterone levels for up to a month. Your doctor may prefer to give you injections under the skin instead; these short-acting injections need to be repeated every week or two at your doctor’s office. At-home testosterone injections are also available.
- Testosterone patches: Think of it like a nicotine or airsickness patch, except it releases testosterone into your bloodstream. You’ll apply this patch yourself every few days at home, typically placing it on your upper arm.
- Testosterone pellets: This delivery system is ideal for the man who doesn’t want to think about his testosterone treatment for months at a time. Your doctor places pellets containing testosterone under the skin of your buttocks, whether they dissolve on a time-release basis over three to six months, releasing testosterone as they do so.
- Oral and intranasal testosterone: Don’t expect to swallow a pill if you opt for oral testosterone therapy. Instead, this delivery method places a patch on your gums, releasing testosterone into your bloodstream. Many men find this delivery system irritating. Intranasal testosterone is delivered via nose spray. Because you need to repeat it three times a day, it’s probably the least convenient delivery method.
- Testosterone gels: With this hands-on treatment, you simply rub testosterone gel on your upper arm every few days. This is often not the method of choice for men with small children in the household, since the gel can be dangerous if little ones get their hands on it.
What If Your Testosterone Levels Are Too High?
It’s far more rare for men to experience testosterone levels that are higher than normal, but they can be a sign of a condition that requires medical attention. If you have overly high testosterone levels, you may experience acne, shrunken testicles, increased muscle mass, high blood pressure, and headaches. You may also notice chest pain, difficulty breathing, swelling in your hands or feet, high levels of aggression, and erectile dysfunction. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, your condition may become worse, and you may be diagnosed with blood clots or with decreased levels of HDL, or “good,” cholesterol.
If you’re diagnosed as having high testosterone, your doctor will want first to look for any source of excess testosterone, such as anabolic steroids or other medications. They’ll also check to see if your high testosterone levels are caused by the presence of tumors.
How to Find Out About Your Testosterone Levels
It does you no good to sit around wondering whether your low sex drive, or your recent weight gain, or your overwhelming sense of exhaustion are related to low testosterone levels. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms detailed above, you should get your hormone levels checked by a licensed doctor. At a men’s health clinic like Texas Men’s Health Group, you can get the diagnosis and treatment you need within an atmosphere of discretion and safety, drawing on the experience of world-class physicians with the depth of expertise you’re looking for. Contact us today to start the journey toward renewed vigor and vitality.