Testosterone plays an important role in a man’s life, affecting everything from appearance and muscle strength, to sex drive and ability to have children. Of course, testosterone production naturally decreases with age; however, a drastic drop in levels can indicate an underlying health issue, and result in a whole range of symptoms, some of which are physically discernible, but can also have a negative impact on psychological wellbeing.
Normal levels of testosterone
Decreasing levels of testosterone are a natural part of aging–. On average, once after age 30, testosterone levels will drop around 1% each year. A healthy diet and regular exercise can slow down the process, as well as weight loss – particularly for men who carry a lot of excess fat.
Normal levels of testosterone in men range from 300 nanograms of the hormone per deciliter of blood to as much as 1200 nanograms. Fortunately, this is a wide spectrum, in which the majority of men fall into; however, for those men who are characterized as having low testosterone, there are numerous signs and symptoms that can creep into daily life – some more obvious than others.
Signs and symptoms
While testosterone alone is not responsible for producing an erection, it is responsible for stimulating receptors in the brain that create chemical reactions necessary for an erection to occur. When levels of the hormone are too low, it will be a lot more difficult for a man to achieve an erection.
More often than not, there are other underlying health issues that may be causing erection difficulties, so you might want to speak with your doctor about them first. These include:
- Thyroid issues
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Alcohol consumption
Naturally, as a man ages, he is more prone to balding; this could also be as a result of hereditary factors. Having said this, there is a real possibility that men with low testosterone may experience a loss of body and facial hair.
Reduction in testicle size
Because testosterone is an essential component in the development of the male sexual organs, low levels of the hormone can manifest through a smaller-than-average penis and testicle size.
Reduced bone mass and muscle mass
Men with low testosterone may notice a decrease in muscle mass, although it may not necessarily affect their strength or function. In addition, the hormone plays a key role in forming and strengthening the bones, too little of which can cause bone loss, making bones more susceptible to fractures.
Decreased semen production
Semen – the milky fluid that promotes sperm mobility, and makes up the majority of ejaculate – is noticeably less in men with low testosterone, which can also cause issues with fertility.
Low testosterone is also characterized by difficulty to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night, making it difficult to stay alert or perform basic activities during the day. Although there may be other reasons for insomnia, it may be worth checking with your doctor to determine the exact cause and seek appropriate treatment.
Low sex drive
Decreased sex drive can be a natural part of the aging process; however, men with low testosterone may notice a sudden and significant drop in their desire to have sex, which can cause undue strain on a relationship.
Hot flashes are often associated with women experiencing fluctuating estrogen levels during menopause. However, it is worth noting that this issue can also affect men with low testosterone levels; an experience that can be quite uncomfortable and bothersome.
Many men with low testosterone have reported feeling extremely tired and having reduced energy levels, as well as a lack of motivation to exercise, on a daily basis. This could, of course, be triggered by a lack of sleep at night – a process also influenced by low testosterone. If the issue becomes particularly inconvenient, you should speak with your doctor.
Mood swings can manifest in many forms, including a lack of focus, irritability and depression – issues that have been reported by several men with low testosterone. The extent of such mood swings can range from fairly mild to being quite severe and uncompromising, to the point where it affects your daily life and relationships with others. You should consider seeking professional help if you feel that your mood is significantly affecting how you function throughout the day.
Increased body fat
Low testosterone – more specifically an imbalance between testosterone and estrogen levels – in men can cause a condition known as gynecomastia, distinguished by enlarged breast tissue.. Because the disorder causes physical changes it can have a negative effect on a man’s self esteem related to body appearance.
While women experience a fairly sudden drop in estrogen during menopause, the reduction in testosterone in men begins a lot earlier, is considerably more gradual and discreet, and intensifies as a man gets older. If you feel that any of the symptoms discussed above are relevant to you, and are worried about having below-average testosterone levels, there is no need to panic. A simple blood test by your doctor can confirm whether or not you do, in fact, have low testosterone, as well as appropriate treatment, if necessary.