Men sometimes joke among one another on the topic of testosterone, but deep down it’s no laughing matter when a drop in the hormone is accompanied by a drop in sexual performance. The human body produces testosterone, for men mainly in their testicles, and it plays a key role in shaping a man’s appearance and sexual development, per healthline.com. It also assists in building muscle and bone mass.
It is natural for a man’s testosterone production to decrease with age, with about 20 percent of men over the age of 60 experiencing low testosterone, according to the American Urological Association. By the time they hit their 70s and 80s, about 30 percent of men are hit with a low T count, which can have a direct effect on their quality of life and overall health.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says a normal T level range is between 300 and 1,000 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL), with a level beneath 300 considered low and usually accompanied by one or more symptoms. A man’s testosterone level can be measured by a blood test known as a serum testosterone test.
“After age 30, most men begin to experience a gradual decline in testosterone,” said Dr. David Samadi, a urology department chairman at a New York City hospital, quoted at everydayhealth.com. Younger men are not immune from low-testosterone levels, but the condition is treatable, so if you need a boost in your T-level numbers, don’t hesitate to reach out for help from your doctor.
Low-T Symptoms Not Just Sexual
An important thing to be aware of – symptoms associated with low testosterone go beyond just the bedroom, although, yes, lowered testosterone will often be accompanied by a lowered sex drive (we’re talking about you, not your partner) as well as, a decline in the volume of semen produced and difficulty in achieving and maintaining an erection.
Here are some other typical low-T symptoms. These might provide an “a ha!” moment for men experiencing all or some of these without a clue what has been transpiring:
- Fatigue. Everybody gets more tired than usual at one time or another, but if you are consistently feeling extreme fatigue and tapped out in terms of energy level, even if getting enough sleep, then you could very well have low T.
- More body fat. Well, OK, it could also be that you are just lying around too much, eating too much and not exercising enough. Or the increase in body fat could be a result of a decrease in testosterone. One sign of this might be enlarged breast tissue, a condition known as gynecomastia, per healthline.com, but colloquially expressed as “male boobs,” the result in males of an imbalance between testosterone and estrogen.
- Muscle shrinkage. Sufficient amounts of testosterone in your body move it into an anabolic state, one in which testosterone helps your body manufacture and assemble proteins that are the building blocks of lean mass. A drop in T levels, however, can result in a catabolic state that breaks down muscle mass vs. building it up.
- Reduction in size of penis and/or testicles. Precisely not what a man wants to hear. Here’s what happens, per menshealth.com: lacking a steady flow of testosterone, the tissues in the penis, scrotum and testicles can atrophy; they can shrink. This can cause the penis to lose length and girth; also, your testicles can decrease to half their full size, and get squishy as well. No one’s laughing now, right.
- Hair loss. OK, so things are going from bad to worse at this point – low-T men are losing out in the wrong places, and gaining in the wrong places (and that includes belly size and its companion visceral fat). It’s not just the hair on the head, either; men with low T might lose body and facial hair as well.
- Bone loss. The thinning of bone mass, aka osteoporosis, is usually linked to women, but guess what, men with low T? It can happen to you, too, leaving you more vulnerable to bone fractures.
- Depression/Mood changes. You might be getting depressed just reading this, but you shouldn’t. Treatment options are available. But depression is very much a reality for some men with low T. Mood changes are often reported as are reductions in mental capacity. Research has found that low-T men are more likely to be confronted by not only depression, but also irritability and lack of focus.
- Genital numbness. A touch of the penis or scrotum doesn’t produce that jolt of energy that usually sparks sexual encounters, so we’re not necessarily talking total numbness here.
If you are experiencing some or all these symptoms, see your doctor about getting a blood test that measures testosterone levels. It’s not something you want to just “let it go,” because men with low T are at a higher risk of more serious illnesses, such as diabetes, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.