"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 such as fatigue, low libido, and loss of muscle mass.
While reduced testosterone is more prevalent in older men, it may occur in younger guys also. Luckily, all the causes of low testosterone in young guys are treatable, so in the event that you encounter these symptoms at any age, there is no reason to ignore it.
Causes of Low Testosterone in Younger Men
For younger guys, a fall in testosterone levels may be brought on by some ailments, such as type 2 diabetes, chronic liver or liver disease, COPD or other lung disease, or pituitary 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, which makes 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 in the Smith Institute for Urology of the North Shore-LIJ Health System.
Additional causes of low testosterone in males younger than 50 include pituitary gland tumors, HIV infection, 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 states. "This could be from a developmental issue, injury to the testicles, or radiation or chemotherapy treatment. In secondary hypogonadism, the testicles are normal but function improperly because of a problem with the hypothalamus or pituitary gland."
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.
Treatments for Low Testosterone in Younger Men
"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 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. Such testosterone supplements come in the form of a gel, injections, patches, long-acting pellets, or oral inserts.
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 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. "Hence, men of reproductive age should consider alternatives that might improve their testosterone in addition to preserve their semen production," he states. 1 such choice is a category of drugs known as selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs).
Other remedies for low testosterone include weight loss and other lifestyle changes, like eating healthy and raising exercise.
The main point, however, is that if you have low testosterone symptoms, then it is important to see your physician. Then, your doctor can rule out potentially more significant causes of your symptoms, including hypertension or a thyroid problem, and give treatment that could improve your energy and high quality of life.