Testosterone is a hormone produced by the testicles and is responsible for the proper development of male sexual characteristics. Testosterone is also important for maintaining muscle bulk, adequate levels of red blood cells, bone growth, a sense of well-being, and sexual function.
Inadequate production of testosterone is not a common cause of erectile dysfunction; however, when ED does occur due to decreased testosterone production, testosterone replacement therapy may improve the problem.
What Causes Low Testosterone?
As a man ages, the amount of testosterone in his body naturally gradually declines. This decline starts after age 30 and continues throughout life. Some causes of low testosterone levels are due to:
- Injury, infection, or loss of the testicles
- Chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer
- Genetic abnormalities such as Klinefelter’s Syndrome (extra X chromosome)
- Hemochromatosis (too much iron in the body)
- Dysfunction of the pituitary gland (a gland in the brain that produces many important hormones) or hypothalamus
- Inflammatory diseases such as sarcoidosis (a condition that causes inflammation of the lungs)
- Medications, especially hormones used to treat prostate cancer and corticosteroid drugs
- Chronic illness
- Chronic kidney failure
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Obesity (especially abdominal)
- What Are the Symptoms of Low Testosterone?
- Without adequate testosterone, a man may lose his sex drive, experience erectile dysfunction, feel depressed, have a decreased sense of well being, and have difficulty concentrating.
What Changes Occur in the Body Due to Low Testosterone?
Low testosterone can cause the following physical changes:
- Decrease in muscle mass, with an increase in body fat
- Changes in cholesterol levels
- Decrease in hemoglobin and possibly mild anemia
- Fragile bones (osteoporosis)
- Decrease in body hair
- Changes in cholesterol and lipid levels
How Do I Find Out If I Have Low Testosterone?
The only accurate way to detect the condition is to have your doctor measure the amount of testosterone in your blood. Because testosterone\levels fluctuate throughout the day, several measurements will need to be taken to detect a deficiency. Doctors prefer, if possible, to test levels early in the morning, when testosterone levels are highest.
Note: Testosterone should only be used by men who have clinical signs and symptoms AND medically documented low testosterone levels.