Testosterone is considered the major male hormone although it is produced in small quantities in women as well. Testosterone is made in men by the testicles and is necessary for the development of the primary and secondary male sexual characteristics.
Men need testosterone to build up muscle bulk and to have normal levels of red blood cells. Testosterone is also necessary for male sexual functioning, a normal sense of well-being, and male bone growth.
While low testosterone isn’t really a common cause of male erectile dysfunction but when it is the problem, replacement of the lost testosterone may be the only thing that can resolve the problem and return the male to normal sexual functioning.
What Is The Cause Of Low Testosterone?
Testosterone loss is a normal aspect of male aging. The testosterone level tends to decline shortly after the age of 30 and continues into old age.
Some particular causes of low testosterone include the following:
- Loss of the testicles due to injury
- Infection in the testicles
- Radiation therapy or chemotherapy for cancer treatment
- Genetic issues such as having Kleinfelter’s Syndrome, which is having an XXY chromosome pattern
- Elevated levels of iron in the body
- Pituitary gland dysfunction
- Hypothalamus dysfunction
- Medications used to treat prostate cancer
- Inflammatory conditions, such as sarcoidosis
- Various chronic illnesses
- The use of corticosteroid drugs
- Liver cirrhosis
- Chronic kidney failure
- Abdominal obesity
Symptoms And Bodily Changes Due To Low Testosterone
A lack of adequate quantities of testosterone in the bloodstream can lead to a man having low sexual libido, erectile dysfunction, decreased sense of well-being, depression, and problems with concentration.
Physical changes in the male include the following:
- Alterations in cholesterol levels
- A loss of muscle mass
- An increase in body fat
- Osteoporosis (thinning of the bones)
- Low hemoglobin, leading to anemia
- A decrease in body hair
The Diagnosis Of Low Testosterone
The only way to know accurately if you have a condition of low testosterone is to see the doctor about having the level of testosterone in your blood measured. Because the levels of testosterone vary throughout the day, the doctor may have to do several different measurements to see if you have testosterone deficiency. The most common way to test testosterone levels is to check the level in the morning when the testosterone levels are supposed to be the highest.
Treating Low Testosterone Levels
Because testosterone is a hormone, it does not tolerate being exposed to stomach acid so you can’t really get enough testosterone if the hormone is taken orally. Instead, these are the ways to best replace the hormone:
- Testosterone gel, which is applied to the skin or inside of the nose
- IM injections, which are given several weeks apart from one another
- Muco-adhesive material that is applied to the gums twice daily
- Testosterone stick, which is applied like deodorant
- Long-acting subcutaneous testosterone pellet
Each of these options will increase the testosterone but have various advantages and disadvantages. You need to talk to your doctor to decide which the best way to give testosterone to you is.
Who can’t take testosterone replacement medication?
Testosterone should not be taken by men who suffer from breast cancer or prostate cancer. Men who have frequent urinary tract infections, severe sleep apnea, or heart failure that is not in good control should not take testosterone. If you are considering taking testosterone replacement therapy, you should have a thorough screening for prostate cancer, including a PSA test and a digital rectal examination, before taking the therapy.
Side Effects Of Taking Testosterone Therapy
Testosterone replacement therapy is generally considered safe; however, there are a few side effects to consider. These include the following:
- Fluid retention
- Oily skin or acne
- Increase in prostate tissue, resulting in a decreased urinary stream or increased frequency of urination
- A greater risk of coming down with prostate cancer
- Enlargement of the breasts
- Worsened sleep apnea
- Decrease in the size of the testicles
- Increased risk of blood clots
- Increase in mood swings
- Increase in aggression
- Increased risk of stroke or heart attacks
- Changes in lipid levels
- Increase in red blood cell count
- Decreased sperm count, leading to infertility
- Increase in PSA level
Because of the risks of taking testosterone, you should see your doctor on a regular basis to make sure it is still appropriate to take testosterone supplementation.