Testosterone is a hormone found in much greater amounts than exists in women.
It is made primarily by the testicles and results in the function of many male activities, including:
- Chest hair and body hair
- Male libido
- Sperm production and motility
- Muscle mass
Low T Syndrome
Increasingly, men are being diagnosed as having “Low T syndrome” or a condition of low testosterone. This is, in part, due to a greater awareness of erectile dysfunction so that many more men are being tested for low testosterone syndrome and are being found to be low. Because there is less stigma round erectile dysfunction, there is also less stigmatization around having a low testosterone condition.
More men are seeing an endocrinologist or urologist and are concerned about depression, weak muscles, lack of libido, and excessive fatigue, which are all symptoms of low T syndrome. In some cases, it isn’t the testosterone at all and is instead thyroid dysfunction but this can be tested for, too.
After the age of 30 years, the testosterone level begins to drop. Men confuse this testosterone loss with part of the aging process but this is simply not the case. Men assume that, as they age, libido is supposed to decrease and erectile dysfunction is a normal part of the process. Many of these men have low T syndrome, which can be treated so that their symptoms can improve.
Diagnosing Low T Syndrome
Doctors treating men with testosterone problems must first rule out other causes of their syndrome. Part of the work up of these symptoms includes determining the man’s testosterone level. The normal amount of testosterone in men is 300 ng/dL. The upper limit for testosterone is 800 ng/dL.
Causes of low T syndrome include the following:
- Testicular cancer or its treatment
- Testicular injury
- Hormonal imbalances
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- An infection
- Being overweight
- Certain medications
- Klinefelter’s syndrome
- Advanced age
Not every man experiences symptoms from having low T syndrome. Levels of 100-200 ng/dL, however, usually these levels do produce symptoms. Low T syndrome, if left untreated, can lead to bone loss and osteoporosis so it should be treated even with few or tolerable symptoms.
Treatment Of Low T Syndrome
Low testosterone should be treated if it is contributing to infertility or if it is causing physical symptoms like erectile dysfunction or osteoporosis. Testosterone does not survive the acidic environment of the stomach so regular pills cannot be given. Instead, testosterone is used in injectable form, as a patch, lozenges, gels, or as a paste that absorbs through the skin. For severe problems, injectable testosterone is considered the most effective. The injections are designed to be given every few weeks.
They stimulate sperm production and improve sperm motility. Gels or patches are used for people with fewer symptoms of low T syndrome. Another treatment involves the use of pellets of testosterone injected into the buttocks. The pellets are able to release a steady amount of testosterone over a period of 3-4 months.
Testosterone treatment for low T syndrome usually kicks in after a couple of weeks, although the results are not considered very dramatic in some cases. There are risks for taking testosterone that every man should know about. This includes an increased risk of prostate cancer or worsening of already developing testosterone cancer. There is possibly an increased risk of developing heart disease from taking in too much testosterone.
Because of the risks of developing negative effects from taking testosterone, the man with low T syndrome and his doctor should have an honest discussion about the pros and cons of taking the hormone before embarking on treatment.