Could you have low testosterone?

June 12, 2017 | by Alison Sage, D.O.
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

You’ve probably heard the commercials for testosterone supplements. They promise to restore the vigor and strength of your youth (not to mention weight loss)?

The problem is most men don’t need a testosterone boost. In fact, supplementing it can be dangerous to your health.

Testosterone levels typically peak in late adolescence and early adulthood. After middle age, a man’s testosterone level usually drops about 1 percent each year.

There are a number of things besides aging that can cause low testosterone, or hypogonadism, including genetics, undescended testicles, mumps, injuries and cancer treatment.

Mayo Clinic lists several of the symptoms lower testosterone levels may cause, such as:

  • Changes in sexual function. This may include reduced sexual desire, fewer spontaneous erections — such as during sleep — and infertility.
  • Changes in sleep patterns. Sometimes low testosterone causes insomnia or other sleep disturbances.
  • Physical changes. Various physical changes are possible, including increased body fat, reduced muscle bulk and strength, and decreased bone density. Swollen or tender breasts (gynecomastia) and body hair loss are possible. You may have less energy than you used to.
  • Emotional changes. Low testosterone may contribute to a decrease in motivation or self-confidence. You may feel sad or depressed, or have trouble concentrating or remembering things.

But these symptoms could be caused by medication or diseases, such as diabetes, depression or thyroid problems. The only way to know if your testosterone is low is through a blood test.

Testosterone therapy carries some risk, and experts aren’t sure it will help symptoms caused by age-related testosterone loss.

Mayo Clinic also lists some of those risks, including:

  • Contributing to sleep apnea — a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts
  • Acne or other skin reactions
  • Stimulating noncancerous growth of the prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia) and growth of existing prostate cancer
  • Enlarged breasts
  • Limit sperm production or cause testicle shrinkage
  • Increase the risk of a blood clot forming in a deep vein (deep vein thrombosis), which could break loose, travel through your bloodstream and lodge in your lungs, blocking blood flow (pulmonary embolism)

If you’re a middle-aged man who hasn't been diagnosed with hypogonadism and you feel tired or have gained weight (or both), increase your exercise, get more sleep and eat healthier instead of trying a testosterone supplement.

If you suspect you may have low testosterone, talk to your doctor. If your testosterone level is too low, your doctor will be able to recommend individualized treatment.

The urologists at Edward-Elmhurst Health are experts in conditions affecting the male reproductive organs. Learn more.

Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness offers energizing fitness classes, comprehensive personal training and diverse aquatics classes. Learn more.

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