As men begin to age, the amount of testosterone in their bodies decreases. This natural aging process is often what causes low testosterone. Up to 40 percent of men in their 40s begin to experience a reduction in testosterone. However, deficient testosterone levels are less common, and they can happen for a number of different reasons. Read on to learn what causes low testosterone and testosterone deficiency and whether you could be at risk.
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What Is Low Testosterone?
Testosterone is important for male development and fertility. This hormone, produced in the testicles, is responsible for the bodily changes that happen during puberty and for making sperm. Testosterone levels are low when the body does not produce enough testosterone on its own.
“When a patient comes to see us at the UPMC Men’s Health Center, we’ll do a thorough evaluation,” said Josip Vukina, MD, a urologist. “You’re going to be plugged into a comprehensive care network, where you can see a cardiologist, you can see a nutritionist, you can get plugged in with a primary care physician if you need to. And the other great appeal, I think is you’re surrounded by a great research institution.”
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Symptoms of Testosterone Deficiency
Men with a testosterone deficiency may notice physical symptoms, such as fatigue, erectile dysfunction, or an inability to conceive with their partner.
Testosterone deficiency symptoms are sometimes difficult to recognize, since they can look similar to symptoms of other conditions. They may also vary by age. Symptoms of testosterone deficiency can include:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Depression or other changes in mood
- Low muscle mass
What Causes Low Testosterone?
Testosterone deficiency syndrome and hypogonadism are other terms often used to describe testosterone levels that have dropped. Some men have low testosterone levels all their lives, while others develop it later in life. Hypogonadism is a combination of low testosterone levels on evaluation and symptoms suggestive of having low testosterone. There are two main types of hypogonadism: primary and secondary.
Primary hypogonadism is either inherited or occurs after an illness or injury. This is a testicular problem — the testes do not produce enough testosterone. Primary hypogonadism can be caused by:
- Testicles that fail to descend at birth
- High levels of iron
- Klinefelter syndrome
Secondary hypogonadism happens when certain parts of the brain — such as the pituitary gland, which produces hormones, or the hypothalamus, which helps regulate hormones — are damaged.
Factors related to secondary hypogonadism are:
- High levels of body fat
- Autoimmune diseases
How to Treat Hypogonadism
Hypogonadism is a treatable condition with a variety of treatment options, though primary hypogonadism is more difficult to treat. Men who have Type 1 or 2 diabetes are especially at risk. Doctors will often perform a blood test if you are showing symptoms of deficient testosterone levels before prescribing any treatment.
The most common form of treatment is topical, such as a gel, cream, or patch that delivers testosterone directly to your bloodstream. Other forms of testosterone include injections and implantable pellets.
For more information about primary and secondary hypogonadism, visit the UPMC Men’s Health Center or call 1-877-647-4636(4MEN).
About Men’s Health Center
The UPMC Men’s Health Center is dedicated to male health and to the evaluation and treatment of conditions affecting men’s sexual and reproductive health. With years of clinical experience in male sexual medicine and surgery, our team has treated a wide variety of conditions and performed thousands of surgeries, providing patients with the highest level of quality care. Our providers understand the intimate nature of male sexual difficulties, and we are dedicated to helping you restore your normal level of sexual function in a comfortable, educational, and discreet environment.