Low testosterone in men can lead to a variety of negative health outcomes. Studies indicate more than 38% of men over 45 years of age have low testosterone levels.
Low testosterone symptoms range from obesity and erectile dysfunction (ED) to moodiness and fatigue. The good news is there are both natural and clinical treatments available that can restore testosterone levels.
In this article, we will take a close look at 12 symptoms of low testosterone in men.
- Low testosterone in men is a common occurrence.
- Symptoms of low testosterone range from moodiness to ED and obesity.
- There are effective ways to treat low testosterone.
How Common Is Low Testosterone In Men?
A study published by the National Institutes of Health in 2006 indicates that low testosterone, or “hypogonadism”, is far more prevalent than previously thought. The study concluded that more than 38% of men over the age of 45 suffer from low testosterone levels (1).
Another study published in 2008 went further and concluded that 50% of 80-year-old men have low testosterone levels (2). That study also concluded that total testosterone levels fall by an average of 1.6% per year, and free testosterone (3) levels drop by 2% – 3% per year after the age of 30.
It’s important for older men to maintain healthy testosterone levels, not just for reproductive purposes (which obviously lose their impetus as a man gets older) but to maintain bone health (4), to retain adequate muscle mass (5) and to prevent the onset of obesity and related maladies, including Type 2 diabetes (6).
12 Symptoms Of Low Testosterone In Men
If you experience one or more of the following symptoms consider asking your doctor about testing for low testosterone levels.
1: Reduced sex drive
Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone responsible for the maintenance and regulation of basic sexual functions, including regulating the sex drive. It is recognized that the libido can be negatively affected by an array of issues, including depression and alcoholism. However, if you have experienced a reduced interest in sex recently, and there are no other obvious extenuating circumstances, low testosterone may be the culprit (7).
2: Erectile dysfunction
Studies indicate that as many as 30 million American men suffer from erectile dysfunction, or ED (8). Not only that, but the prevalence of erectile dysfunction increases dramatically in men more than 50 years old (9). While a variety of factors can influence a man’s ability to achieve and maintain an erection, research clearly indicates low testosterone is a common cause (10).
3: Loss of muscle mass
As is the case with other symptoms on our list there may be a variety of reasons why a man’s overall muscle mass declines. Primary among them is a lack of physical activity. However, when active men start to experience sarcopenia (the loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength) low testosterone levels are often the cause (11). If you exercise regularly but are still noticing a loss of muscle mass you may want to ask your doctor to check for low testosterone.
Being that testosterone plays such a central role in the sexual and physical development of men it should not be surprising that it is capable of affecting a man’s emotional state. Studies indicate that low testosterone levels can produce mood swings in some men and depressive symptoms in others (12). Unfortunately, testosterone levels are not commonly checked when men are being screened for depression, though they probably should be.
5: Fatigue or lack of energy
If you experience feelings of fatigue and low energy even though you get what should be enough sleep, the problem may be low testosterone levels. Testosterone’s role in energy production has been well-documented in numerous animal studies (13). Those studies demonstrated that low testosterone can inhibit the ability of muscles to fire (contract). This would, in turn, create feelings of fatigue and low energy.
Even moderate obesity is known to reduce total testosterone levels (14). At the same time, low testosterone levels have also been shown to promote obesity (15). The fact is if you have put on a significant amount of weight and are found to have low testosterone levels it may be impossible to determine if the weight gain was the result of low testosterone, or if the weight gain caused your testosterone levels to drop. But in either case, the result is the same.
7: Trouble sleeping
At least 1 recent study concluded that low testosterone can have a negative effect on the quality of a man’s sleep (16). The authors of the study, however, were at something of a loss to determine the proper course of action to correct the situation. They suggested testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) may improve things, but too much testosterone introduced to the body through TRT may make the problem worse.
8: Loss of bone density
There is a well-established link between testosterone levels and bone density (17). However, unless you go to a doctor and specifically ask them to perform a bone density exam (18) it may be nearly impossible to determine if you have suffered bone loss due to low testosterone.
Most men discover this only when they fall and fracture their hip, arm or another bone. Bone fractures can be devastating to an older person’s quality of life. The best way to avoid them is to be proactive and talk to your doctor if you suspect low testosterone levels.
9: Unexpected hair loss
Hair loss may occur for a variety of reasons including illness, medications, and the most common cause, male pattern baldness. But there is another cause that is not often discussed, and that is low testosterone levels. The action of hair follicles (their ability to support the growth of hair) is determined in large part by dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a by-product of testosterone. If testosterone levels are low, DHT production may suffer and hair loss may result (19).
10: Testicular atrophy
In order to maintain a constant temperature, the scrotum will expand when hot (to move the testicles away from the hot body) and shrink when cold (to move them closer to the warm body). This waxing and waning of the scrotum is natural. Testicular atrophy is not.
Testicular atrophy is when the testicles themselves physically shrink due to low testosterone levels. Ironically, testosterone replacement therapy may also cause testicular atrophy (20) as the body is fooled into thinking it has plenty of testosterone and shuts down production in the testes.
11: Loss of concentration
While there is debate among researchers regarding exactly how testosterone affects the brain, what is beyond doubt is that there is a relationship between cognitive function and testosterone levels (21). Low levels of testosterone are believed to negatively affect the ability to concentrate. Low testosterone is also believed to produce depressive symptoms in some men and cause others to become irritable and moody.
12: Hot flashes
While most men associate hot flashes exclusively with women the fact is low testosterone levels can cause men to experience them as well (22). Confirmation of this phenomenon came in the form of a clinical study done on men who had testosterone production interrupted by experimental androgen therapies. They experienced regular hot flashes until testosterone levels were restored to normal. At which point the hot flashes ceased.
Treatments For Low Testosterone
The most common form of treatment for low testosterone levels is testosterone replacement therapy or TRT (23). Although TRT is not without its risks (24), literally millions of American men undergo TRT every year. There are four primary methods of administration for exogenous testosterone:
- Gels: A topical gel is infused with testosterone and the man spreads it over the skin of the upper body and thighs. Over several hours the testosterone in the gel is absorbed through the skin raising testosterone levels.
- Patches: Most people have heard of the nicotine patch. The testosterone patch works in much the same way. A patch infused with the hormone is applied to the arm, or another location typically on the upper body, and the testosterone is gradually absorbed through the skin.
- Oral patches: For those who do not want to wear a patch on their skin or apply gels there are oral patches that can be applied to the roof of the mouth. This type of patch works the same as the external patch but is usually replaced every 12 hours rather than every 24 hours.
- Injections: Most doctors will shy away from recommending testosterone injections, simply because they can be painful and the results are usually no better than those achieved through less invasive measures.
There are also numerous ways to increase testosterone levels naturally including:
- Weight training
- Eating a protein-rich diet
- Getting enough sleep
- Reducing stress levels
- Losing weight
- Drinking less alcohol
- Taking vitamin D
Low testosterone levels can produce an array of negative health effects. Fortunately, there are symptoms you can watch for that will help you recognize the problem and effective treatments that will enable you to reverse the slide toward low testosterone.