Unhealthy Testosterone Levels in Men: Causes and Symptoms
If the “black dog” of depression has reared its ugly head at some point in your life, then low testosterone levels may have been at play. But this is hardly the only possible consequence of low testosterone, which you can detect at home with the Everlywell Testosterone Test.
So keep reading to learn more about testosterone in men, including causes and symptoms of “low T.”
Testosterone is the primary hormone behind muscle-building, fat-burning, libido, and even strongly affects mood and energy. Low testosterone can therefore have a host of symptoms.
For many men, low testosterone causes symptoms that can affect many different aspects of health and well-being. For example, sexual energy and drive can decrease, and you might experience difficulty with sexual performance.
Athletic performance can also suffer due to loss of energy, as well as increased difficulty building muscle and burning fat. Having greater fat and less muscle can then potentially increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions dependent on an optimal metabolism.
Loss of motivation
Sleep problems and/or fatigue
Osteoporosis (where your bones become very brittle)
Erectile dysfunction (ED)
Loss of muscle mass
Having greater fat and less muscle can then potentially increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions dependent on an optimal metabolism.
Note that average testosterone levels decrease as men age. Starting around age 30, testosterone decreases about 1% per year, on average. This is part of the normal aging process. Some men may develop abnormally low testosterone levels.
The Everlywell at-home Testosterone Test can help men identify if their testosterone levels are lower than the common range for their age. If your testosterone levels are low, you can share your Everlywell results with your doctor, and in collaboration, the two of you can develop a plan for a healthier lifestyle and/or medication that may help improve your testosterone levels.
What causes your testosterone to dip downwards? As it turns out, there are both direct and indirect causes of low T levels in men:
Testicular failure – resulting from genetic and metabolic disorders, as well as autoimmune diseases and testicular trauma – is a direct cause.
Indirect causes of low testosterone include excessive exercise, malnutrition, synthetic steroid abuse, and hormonal imbalances in the pituitary gland.
Testosterone replacement therapy, or TRT, can help treat some low testosterone symptoms in men. Doctors often recommend TRT as a treatment option for male hypogonadism, a condition in which the body doesn’t make enough testosterone (often due to testicular failure). Ultimately, this condition can lead to symptoms of low T.
Testosterone therapy can improve muscle strength and erectile function in hypogonadal men, as well as boost energy and protect against bone loss.
Testosterone can be administered in several different ways, including skin patches, gels applied to the skin, injections, and implants.
In past decades, many scientists believed that higher levels of total testosterone came with an increased risk of prostate cancer. (Total testosterone is a measure of the total amount of testosterone circulating in your bloodstream – including testosterone that’s bound to other compounds as well as testosterone that is unbound or “free.”)
It was thought that low testosterone actually helped protect against prostate diseases, so restoring testosterone to normal levels – through testosterone therapy – could mean a greater chance of prostate cancer.
So could prostate cancer be a potential risk of TRT?
Not likely, says today’s researchers. While initial studies (first published in 1941) suggested a link between high T levels and prostate cancer, much more modern research – using much more rigorous methods – has convincingly shown that testosterone therapy comes with “little if any risk” of prostate cancer.
Men with high testosterone can experience a variety of troubling symptoms and possible health consequences. You may experience more aggressive and irritable behavior, more acne and oily skin, even worse sleep apnea (if you already have it), and an increase in muscle mass. With too much testosterone pumping through your system, you may have a lower sperm count (due to decreased sperm production) and shrunken testicles.
Too much testosterone in men can result from testicular or adrenal tumors. Even if these tumors are benign – that is, they aren’t malignant or cancerous – they can still boost testosterone levels to unhealthy levels, as can steroid use and abuse.
And if you don’t treat your high testosterone levels? High testosterone will raise your “bad” cholesterol levels, and can thus seriously harm your heart – potentially resulting in a heart attack or stroke. Risk of sleep apnea and infertility is also heightened if you have high testosterone.
Because high and low testosterone levels are both disruptive to your health, it’s critical that your testosterone levels are within a healthy range. But how can you check your testosterone? You can easily measure your testosterone with the Everlywell Testosterone Test or the Men's Health Test, and discuss any unhealthy levels with your healthcare provider.