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Low testosterone: what men need to know

One in four men may be affected by low testosterone1, a condition associated with low sex drive, erectile dysfunction (ED), and other physical problems sometimes associated with aging. Fortunately, low testosterone can be easily detected and treated. Here’s what you need to know.

What is testosterone?

Testosterone is the primary male hormone. In boys, it is involved in physical changes seen in puberty, including growth of facial and body hair, lowering of the voice, and development of male sex organs. In men, testosterone is important for maintaining libido, sperm production, muscle strength and mass, and healthy bone density.

What causes low testosterone?

The main factor is age. Starting at age 30, male testosterone levels drop with age at a rate of about 1-2% per year.2 With baby boomers getting older, experts expect a large increase in the number of men with low testosterone.

What are the symptoms of low testosterone?

Possible symptoms of low testosterone include:

  • Reduced sexual drive or activity
  • Decreased spontaneous erections
  • Loss of body hair, reduced shaving
  • Hot flushes, sweats
  • Breast discomfort

Low testosterone is also associated with depressed mood, increased body fat, and decreased muscle mass, bone strength, and vitality. Other potential consequences include type 2 diabetes.

How is it treated?

Low testosterone is treatable with testosterone replacement therapy. However, this treatment increases the risk of certain blood problems and prostate cancer and may increase risk of heart disease. That’s why an accurate diagnosis of low testosterone is important.

If you are diagnosed and receive hormone treatment, it’s also important to have your testosterone levels retested. Medical guidelines recommend monitoring of testosterone levels 3-6 months after treatment begins. Your doctor may order other blood tests as well to make sure your treatment is working as it should.

Talk with your doctor

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above or are at all concerned, ask your doctor about testing your testosterone levels. An accurate diagnosis and successful treatment may lead to symptom relief and even prevent more serious medical issues.

Next Steps

PDF Icon Request a test from your doctor

References

1. Araujo AB, Esche GR, Kupelian V, et al. Prevalence of symptomatic androgen deficiency in men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007 Nov;92(11):4241-4247.

2. Ohl DA, Quallich SA. Clinical Hypogonadism and Androgen Replacement Therapy. Urology Nursing. 2006;26:250.

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