"After age 30, most men begin to experience a gradual decline in testosterone," states David Samadi, MD, chairman of the urology department at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Although testosterone levels never reach zero (as estrogen levels do in women during menopause), low testosterone levels men to experience symptoms like fatigue, low sex drive, and loss of muscle mass.
While reduced testosterone is more common in older men, it may occur in younger men also. Fortunately, every one the causes of low testosterone in young guys are treatable, so in the event that you experience such symptoms at any given age, there's no reason to dismiss it.
Causes of Low Testosterone in Younger Men
For younger guys, a drop in testosterone levels may be caused by some ailments, such as type 2 diabetes, diabetes, chronic liver or kidney disease, COPD or other lung disorder, or adrenal gland problems, based on Dr. Samadi.
Genetic causes of low testosterone in males include the diseases Klinefelter syndrome, Kallmann syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, and Myotonic dystrophy. Another disease which can result in low testosterone is hemochromatosis, making the body store too much iron.
"Low testosterone can also result when something happens, like trauma or steroid use, that prevents the testes from making the hormone," states Bruce Gilbert, MD, PhD, an adjunct clinical professor of urology and reproductive medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and director of reproductive and reproductive medicine at the Smith Institute for Urology of their North Shore-LIJ Health System.
Additional causes of low testosterone in men younger than 50 contain adrenal gland tumors, HIV disease, and radiation treatment or chemotherapy for cancer.
Doctors categorize causes of low testosterone as secondary or primary.
"Primary hypogonadism stems from a problem in the testicles," Samadi states.
Is It Low Testosterone?
Irrespective of the reason, low testosterone symptoms are the same.
"Symptoms include low libido, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, decreased mental acuity, and moodiness," Dr. Gilbert says.
"Younger men with low testosterone usually come to me and say, ‘I can't work out like I used to, and I've lost interest in sex.' ”
If you suspect low testosterone, the first step is to see your primary care physician. Your doctor can diagnose low testosterone with a blood test.
If your blood test reveals low testosterone (usually defined as a level lower than 300 ng/dL), the doctor may treat you or refer you to a specialist, such as an urologist or endocrinologist.
Not everyone with low testosterone needs treatment. "When it comes to treating low testosterone in younger guys, we generally reserve treatment for people who have symptoms, such as tiredness and reduced libido," Gilbert says.
In men who don't make the hormone in their testes because of a condition such as Klinefelter syndrome, or those who have lost their testes because of cancer, the only option is testosterone replacement therapy.
In these circumstances,"treatments are usually used only in the short term, and when a doctor has close observation and knowledge of the patient," Gilbert says.
An important consideration for younger men before getting treatment is fertility. "You don't wish to give supplemental testosterone to men who want to be fertile because it can turn off sperm production," Gilbert says.
Once a young man goes off testosterone supplementation, there's a chance his sperm count will never return to what it was before he started. "Therefore, men of reproductive age should consider alternatives which may improve their testosterone in addition to maintain their semen production," he states. One such alternative is a class of drugs known as selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs).
Other remedies for low testosterone include weight loss and other lifestyle modifications, like eating healthier and increasing exercise.
The bottom line, though, is that in the event that you've got low testosterone symptoms, then it's important to see your doctor. Then, your doctor can rule out more serious causes of your symptoms, such as hypertension or a thyroid problem, and give treatment that can improve your energy and high quality of life.