Testosterone is a hormone produced by the human body. The testicles (testes) mainly produce testosterone in men. Ovaries of women also produce testosterone but in less amount as compared to men. Testosterone production is linked with sex drive and plays a crucial role in sperm development. But it also prompts bone and muscle mass, the way men store fat in the body and RBC (red blood cell) production. A man’s mood is also affected by his testosterone levels. However, testosterone production decreases with age (usually dips after age 30). Sometimes, testosterone levels drops to a dangerous mark, wherein, a blood test is done to determine the level of circulating testosterone.
Causes of Low Testosterone:
Men may experience a decline in testosterone for a range of reasons including an injury to the testes or a tumor on a hormone-producing gland. When you are under physical or emotional stress, testosterone levels drop significantly because your body shifts attention to more serious problem. Other factors that may increase the risk of low testosterone are:
Signs and symptoms of low testosterone levels (low T) are:
- Low Sex Drive: Testosterone plays an important part in sex drive of both men and women. Men with low T will experience decreased desire to indulge in sexual activities. The same thing happens with women too along with other hormonal and mood changes.
- Difficulty achieving erection: Testosterone prompts a man’s sex drive but also helps in achieving an erection. It alone doesn’t cause an erection but stimulates nitric oxide in the brain- a molecule associated with achieving an erection. When an man is encountering low T, he may be unable to attain an erection prior to sex or experience impulsive erections (during sleep). Other health complication may influence erectile dysfunction.
- Low semen volume: Testosterone assists in semen production which helps in the motility of sperm. The more testosterone a man has, the more semen he makes. Low T will decrease the volume of semen during ejaculation.
- Hair Loss: Testosterone gives a helping hand in multiple body functions including hair production. Baldness is a part of a man’s ageing process but with low T, a man can lose facial and body hair.
- Decreased energy levels: Men with low T will experience a decrease in energy levels. If you are feeling tired even after getting plenty of sleep, it’s to check with your doctor.
- Loss of muscle mass: Testosterone assists in developing and strengthening of muscle. Men with low T might suffer from both muscle mass and strength. Those who try to gain muscle strength may fail too.
- Mood swings: Women tend to experience mood swings during menopause, due to decreased levels of estrogen. Same can be said about men with low T. Testosterone influences mood and mental capacity and a low count can lead to depression, irritability, or a lack of concentration.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy
Diminished testosterone production (hypogonadism), may not always require a treatment unless it intervenes with your health and quality of life. An underlying medical condition can coincide with decreased testosterone production and should be immediately administered. In other cases, artificial testosterone through injections or gels can be given.
While replacement therapy may get you desired results- greater muscle mass and a stronger sex drive, it does carry some side effects like oily skin, fluid retention, shrunken testes and decreased sperm production. Studies have found no other risks associated with the replacement therapy.