Common symptoms of low testosterone levels

Everything you need to know, from erectile dysfunction to hair loss


Testosterone plays an important role in male health, affecting everything from appearance and muscle strength, to sex drive and ability to have children.  Testosterone production decreases naturally with age; however, a drastic drop in levels can indicate an underlying health issue, and result in a whole range of symptoms.  Some symptoms are physically discernible, but others can have a significant impact on psychological wellbeing.

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Normal levels of testosterone

Declining levels of testosterone are a natural part of the aging process. On average, after age 30, testosterone levels will drop around 1% each year.   You can however, slow down the process, with a healthy diet and regular exercise.  Weight loss can also have a positive effect, 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.  Most men will fall somewhere into this wide spectrum.  However, for those who fall short, there are numerous signs and symptoms that can creep into daily life – some more obvious than others.

Signs and symptoms

Erectile dysfunction

While testosterone alone is not responsible for producing an erection, it is responsible for stimulating receptors in the brain that create the 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 erectyle dysfunction (ED), so you might want to speak with your doctor about this issue first.  Underlying medical issues known to contribute to ED include:

  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid disorders
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress

Hair loss

Older men are more prone to male-pattern hair loss, which is normally an inherited condition.  Men with low testosterone however, may experience a loss of both body and facial hair.

Reduction in testicle size

Because testosterone is an essential component in the development of male sexual organs, low levels of the hormone can manifest through 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 this may not necessarily have a significant impact on strength.  In addition, testosterone plays a key role in forming and strengthening bones.  Too little can cause bone density loss, making bones more susceptible to fractures.

Decreased semen production

Semen – the milky fluid that promotes sperm motility, and makes up the majority of ejaculate – decreases in volume in men with low testosterone, which can in turn, reduce fertility.

Difficulty sleeping

Low testosterone can manifest as difficulty falling and staying asleep, which makes it hard 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

While hot flashes are often associated with women experiencing fluctuating estrogen levels during menopause, they may also affect men with low testosterone levels.

Reduced energy

Many men with low testosterone have reported feeling extremely tired and having reduced energy levels, as well as a lack of motivation to exercise daily. If you feel your energy level and ability to motivate have recently changed for the worse, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor.

Mood swings

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, affecting your daily life and relationships with others. You should consider seeking professional help if you feel that your mood is significantly affecting your quality of life.


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 this disorder causes physical changes, it can have a negative effect on a man’s self esteem and relationships.


While women experience a fairly sudden drop in estrogen during menopause, the reduction in testosterone in men begins a lot earlier, and is considerably more gradual. 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 have low testosterone.  You can then seek appropriate treatment if necessary.

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