What is Low T?
You’ve probably heard about Low T, or maybe you even have the symptoms. The Internet, cable channels and magazine pages are flooded with advertisements for low testosterone treatments. Everyone has seen the ads calling for men to talk to their doctors about the latest testosterone gel. Low testosterone levels can diminish a man’s sex drive, energy levels, and self-confidence while also causing various health problems. And since low testosterone levels can affect a man’s quality of life, this can inadvertently decrease their lifespan. Men who may have the symptoms of low testosterone are often reluctant to discuss their conditions, even though new treatments and therapies could help them live more normal lives.
The number of men being diagnosed with low testosterone is on the rise, but, fortunately, modern medicine finally has a solution. As the population of older men grows - and as diagnostic technology and public awareness have caught on to low testosterone - more men are seeking and receiving the diagnoses needed to get help. While a gradual decline of testosterone levels is normal and acceptable as men age, hormone therapy can help men whose lives are being adversely impacted by the symptoms of abnormally low testosterone.
Testosterone is a hormone that plays numerous vital roles in the male body. Normally, a man’s testosterone range is around 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL). High testosterone levels can be around 1000 ng/dL. But testosterone levels lower than 300 ng/DL can be problematic. Normal testosterone levels are needed for a healthy sex drive and are responsible for deepening the voice and male hair growth patterns.During puberty, rising testosterone levels help build muscle mass. As men age, testosterone helps maintain muscle tone.Mistakenly, when men experience a decreased sex drive, many of them will believe it is a result of their age and decreasing testosterone. While it is true that by age 30, testosterone levels begin declining in most men, the decline should be gradual and insignificant until much later in life.
It is always important to know the difference between a normal decrease in testosterone levels and those associated with hypogonadism (the official term when the body doesn’t produce enough testosterone). When testosterone levels diminish too quickly, the results can often be very subtle or quite distinct. Low testosterone tends to cause fatigue, depression, and sometimes irritability. Commonly, men with low testosterone will experience a loss of libido, and some may even experience numbness of the genitals. On top of that, testosterone can shrink the testicles, and make them feel softer.
In addition, low levels may also decrease fertility, decreasing sperm production and motility (movement). This makes it difficult for fertilization to occur, or rather the ability for a man to impregnate a woman. Low testosterone can also affect the body physically, with a resulting loss of body hair, weakening of muscles and bones, as well as anincrease in body fat. Men who experience these symptoms should talk to their doctor, asa simple blood test can reveal testosterone levels. A test yielding a low score may be indicative of serious health concern.
Low testosterone may indicate a hormonal disorder or an infection that needs treatment. Any injury to the testicles or testicular cancer can also lower testosterone levels. HIV and AIDS are known to lower testosterone levels when a patient is in poor clinical condition and/or nutritional status. HIV-infected men have elevated sex-hormone binding globulin (proteins) which bind to testosterone and prevent it from functioning properly.Men need plenty of free testosterone in order for the hormones to function in the body. Patients with chronic liver and kidney disease also tend to have low testosterone levels. The viral disease known as the mumps can cause painful testicular inflammation and, as a result, lower testosterone. Additionally, obese individuals and those with type 2 diabetes have low free testosterone levels as well as low sex-hormone binding globulin.
Further causes of low testosterone can be certain medicines and genetic conditions. Cancer patients who have undergone chemotherapy or radiation therapy are more at risk for abnormally low testosterone levels. Hereditary hemochromatosis or diet-induced hemochromatosis (a condition where too much iron is present in the blood) affects the pituitary and, as a result, lowers testosterone production. Another genetic condition known as Kallmann syndrome prevents the onset of puberty or prevents its successful completion. In addition, untreated sleep apnea,can lead to abnormal sleep cycles and cause sleep deprivationthat may lower testosterone, as a result.
Men who are diagnosed with low testosterone levels are diagnosed with either primary or secondary hypogonadism. A diagnosis of primary hypogonadism means the low testosterone levels can be pinpointed to improper functioning of the testicles. Secondary hypogonadism originates outside of the testicles. Various health conditions ranging from brain tumors to kidney dysfunctions can cause malfunctions of the pituitary gland, interrupting signals to the testicles to produce adequate testosterone levels. Hypogonadism is also classified as either congenital or acquired. Congenital hypogonadism is a result of conditions present at birth while acquired hypogonadism is induced by certain drugs, steroids, injury or disease.
No matter how low a man’s testosterone levels are, these hormones can usually be replenished with modern analysis and care. When symptoms are present due to low testosterone, treatment may be considered by a doctor. When fertility is an issue,in order to treat young male patients with low testosterone, testosterone injections may be an option. These injections stimulate sperm production and motility and make it easier for egg fertilization to occur. Iffertility is not a concern, then a daily gel or patch on the skin may help increase testosterone. The downside of gel is that the patient must avoid contact with others while he uses it since the gel is indiscriminate and can increase the testosterone of anyone it comes in contact with. A relatively new treatment involves placing implantable testosterone pellets under the skin of the buttocks. With this treatment, testosterone is released over the course of three to four months.
Individuals seeking treatment for low testosterone may experience positive results within a few weeks, but they may also experience some negative results due to treatment risks. Treatment may accelerate prostate growth and increase red blood cell count. The man’s breasts can become enlarged, and so it is advised that men afflicted with breast cancer do not receive treatment. Some doctors also advise that men with prostate cancer do not seek treatment because testosterone treatments may affect the health of the prostate.
Because low testosterone can cause depression, fatigue and changes in body composition, it can decline your overall health. Men with low testosterone increase their risk of heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Many health professionals believe that men with higher testosterone levels live longer lives.Therefore, it is best for men to seek treatment as soon as possible in order to improve their quality of life, as well as their health.