What Is Low Testosterone?
Testosterone levels in an adult male typically range from 300-900 nanograms per decilitre of blood. However, even men with total testosterone levels in that range can have lowered levels of “free testosterone”, which is the amount of the hormone which is available in the blood stream.
Low testosterone can have several causes. One of the most common is popularly called “Andropause”, and usually refers to the medical condition “Hypogonadism”, where men’s bodies produce less testosterone as they age. There are many other associated causes. These include having a poor diet, drinking too much alcohol, not sleeping enough, not having enough sexual activity, suffering from an illness, recovering from surgery or suffering from too much stress. Low testosterone can also be caused by abuse of anabolic steroids. Steroids can reduce sperm count and shrink testicles permanently. It is common to hear about professional athletes going on testosterone-replacement therapy to combat the damage done earlier in their lives.
Whatever the cause, low testosterone can have major effects on men’s lives. Difficulty achieving an erection, lowered sex drive, low semen volume, hair loss, fatigue, loss of muscle mass, increase in body fat, decrease in bone mass, and mood changes are all common symptoms associated with lowered testosterone.
Treatment of Low Testosterone
There are many different treatments for low testosterone available on the market today. Some of the common options include:
- Injections: Testosterone is injected directly into a muscle. With this type of treatment, testosterone levels can dip significantly between shots
- Patch: A testosterone patch (much like a smoking-cessation nicotine patch) is applied to the body. Testosterone levels stay more consistent, but some people have reactions to the patches, or find them uncomfortable
- Gel: A testosterone gel is applied to the skin. Gels have all the benefits of patches, but with lowered incidence of skin irritation. Showering after the application of the gel can wash it off, however, and the medication can also accidentally rub off on another person if skin-to-skin contact occurs
- Gum and Cheek: A small piece of putty is kept above the top teeth (much like tobacco chewers do, just with the upper lip instead), and delivers testosterone through contact with your gums and lip.
- Implants: A small pellet is implanted in the skin, and needs to be replaced every 3-6 months.
Low Testosterone Prognosis
The prognosis for patients with low testosterone is very good. Most of the symptoms of low testosterone are not associated with an increased risk of mortality.