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What Do I Need To Know About Low Testosterone Or Low-T

Posted August 15, 2022 by Kevin A Spear, MD

man working out looking tired

Testosterone is what makes a man look and feel like a man. It’s the male sex hormone responsible for a man’s puberty, fertility and his sexual desire.

Produced in the testicles, testosterone works to help boys develop male characteristics, such as body and facial hair, a deeper voice and muscle strength during puberty. Men also need the hormone to produce sperm. In addition, testosterone ensures adequate levels of red blood cells and bone density, boosts mood and aids thinking ability.

Unfortunately, a slow drop in testosterone levels is a normal part of aging and certain health conditions can cause a more rapid decline. Men with testosterone levels below 300 ng/dL may have a disease known as Low Testosterone, or Low-T, and unwanted symptoms, including:

  • Low sex drive
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Low sperm count
  • Decrease in body hair or slow beard growth
  • Decrease in muscle size and strength
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia (low iron)
  • Irritability or depression

A lower sexual desire alone does not necessarily mean you have Low-T. However, if you’re experiencing a combination of two or more symptoms, it’s time to talk with your doctor.

Causes of Low-T

Low-T is more common in men over the age of 45 because testosterone levels naturally drop with age. In fact, the natural decline can start around age 30 and continue about 1 percent each year throughout his life.

What’s more, some men develop Low-T due to conditions, such as:

  • Medication side effects, especially from chemotherapy, radiation or steroids
  • Testicle injury or cancer
  • Infection or autoimmune disorders
  • Pituitary gland disorder that leads to a hormone deficiency
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure

Treatment of Low-T

Your doctor will confirm a Low-T diagnosis through multiple blood tests because levels can fluctuate throughout the day.

If you’ve been diagnosed with low levels of testosterone and your doctor can determine the source, such as obesity or a particular medication, that issue will be addressed first. If that’s not possible, the common treatment for Low-T is testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), which is man-made testosterone.

There are four common ways to administer testosterone:

  1. Topical gels, creams or patches applied daily
  2. Injections usually given every 10 to 14 days
  3. Orally in capsules or tablets attached to your gums to slowly release testosterone
  4. Implants. Your doctor will place testosterone pellets under the skin of your upper hip or buttocks and the medication dissolves slowly over three to six months.

Most men feel an improvement in symptoms within four to six weeks of therapy, such as improved sexual function, mental sharpness, greater muscle strength and bone density.

Beware, however, TRT comes with risks of serious side effects, such as infertility, blood clots, worsening heart disease and an enlarged prostate. That’s why during treatment, you’ll need routine checkups with your doctor to monitor potential side effects and ensure your testosterone levels remain normal.

Not everyone with Low-T will need treatment. So, it’s best to talk with your doctor about the risks and potential benefits of TRT to find out what’s right for you.

Summa Health’s urologists are skilled in diagnosing low testosterone. Since many of its symptoms can be the result of other health problems, we’ll conduct an in-depth health history, physical exam and blood tests to rule out any other causes of symptoms before testosterone is prescribed. To schedule an appointment with one of our urologists, call 330.374.1255.

Kevin A Spear, MD

Kevin A Spear, MD

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