"After age 30, most men begin to experience a gradual decline in testosterone," says 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 like fatigue, low libido, and reduction of muscle mass.
While low testosterone is more prevalent in older men, it may occur in younger men as well. Luckily, all the causes of low testosterone in young men are treatable, so in the event that you experience such symptoms at any age, there's no reason to dismiss it.
For younger men, a fall in testosterone levels may be caused by some illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, chronic liver or kidney disease, COPD or other lung disease, or pituitary gland issues, 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 disorder 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," says Bruce Gilbert, MD, PhD, an adjunct clinical professor of urology and reproductive medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and director of reproductive and sexual medicine at the Smith Institute for Urology of their North Shore-LIJ Health System.
Additional causes of low testosterone in males younger than 50 include pituitary gland tumors, HIV infection, and radiation treatment 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.
Can It Be Low Testosterone?
Regardless of the cause, low testosterone symptoms would be the same.
"Symptoms include low libido, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, decreased mental acuity, and moodiness," Dr. Gilbert says.
"Younger men with low testosterone usually come to me and say, ‘I can't work out like I used to, and I've lost interest in sex.’ ”
If you suspect low testosterone, the first step is to see your primary care physician.
Treatments for Low Testosterone in Younger Men
"When it comes to treating low testosterone in older men, we generally reserve treatment for those who have symptoms, such as tiredness and reduced 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 gel, injections, patches, long-acting pellets, or oral inserts.
In these circumstances,"therapies are often used just in the short term, and when a physician has close monitoring and knowledge of the individual," Gilbert says.
An important consideration for younger men before getting treatment is fertility. "You do not want to give supplemental testosterone to men who are interested in being 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 think about alternatives which may improve their testosterone in addition to maintain their semen production," he says. 1 such choice is a class of drugs called selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs).
Other remedies for low testosterone include weight loss and other lifestyle modifications, such as eating healthier and increasing exercise.
The bottom line, however, is that in the event that you've got low testosterone symptoms, then it is very important to see your doctor. Then, your doctor can rule out more serious causes of your symptoms, including hypertension or a thyroid problem, and offer treatment that can enhance your power and quality of life.