"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.
Though 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 reduction of muscle mass.
While low testosterone is more prevalent in older men, it may occur in younger men also. Fortunately, all the causes of low testosterone in young guys are curable, so if you encounter these symptoms at any age, there is no reason to dismiss it.
Causes of Low Testosterone in Younger Men
For younger guys, a drop in testosterone levels may be brought on by some illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, diabetes, chronic liver or liver disease, COPD or other lung disease, or pituitary gland issues, based on Dr. Samadi.
Genetic causes of low testosterone in men include the ailments Klinefelter syndrome, Kallmann syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, and Myotonic dystrophy. Another disease that can result in low testosterone is hemochromatosis, making the body shop too much iron.
"Low testosterone can also result when something happens, like trauma or steroid use, that prevents the testes from making the hormone," says Bruce Gilbert, MD, PhD, an adjunct clinical professor of urology and reproductive medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and director of reproductive and sexual medicine in the Smith Institute for Urology of their North Shore-LIJ Health System.
Other causes of low testosterone in men younger than 50 include pituitary gland tumors, HIV disease, and radiation therapy or chemotherapy for cancer.
Doctors categorize causes of low testosterone as primary or secondary.
"Primary hypogonadism stems from a problem in the testicles," Samadi says. In secondary hypogonadism, the testicles are normal but function improperly because of a problem with the hypothalamus or pituitary gland."
Is It Low Testosterone?
Regardless of the reason, low testosterone symptoms would be the same.
"Symptoms include low libido, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, decreased mental acuity and moodiness," Dr. Gilbert states.
"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.
Not everyone with low testosterone needs treatment. "When it comes to treating low testosterone in younger men, we usually reserve treatment for those who have symptoms, such as fatigue and low libido," Gilbert says.
In these circumstances,"therapies are often used only in the short term, and if a physician has close monitoring and understanding of the individual," Gilbert says.
An important consideration for younger men before getting treatment is fertility. "You don't want to give supplemental testosterone to guys 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 think about alternatives which may improve their testosterone as well as preserve their sperm production," he states. 1 such alternative is a class of drugs called selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs).
Other remedies for low testosterone include weight loss and other lifestyle modifications, such as eating healthier and raising exercise.
The main point, though, is that if you've got low testosterone symptoms, then it's important to see your physician. Then, your doctor can rule out more significant causes of your symptoms, including high blood pressure or a thyroid problem, and offer treatment that could improve your energy and high quality of life.