What is low testosterone?

Hypogonadism: Overview

Men who have hypogonadism do not make enough testosterone. This hormone regulates a man's sex drive, bone mass, fat distribution, muscle mass (and strength), and the production of red blood cells and sperm. The condition also is known as testosterone deficiency. It can lead to loss of sex drive, weakness, impotence, infertility, and weakened bones.

Many things can cause this condition. Causes may include injured testicles, certain medicines, or an infection. Having a long-term health problem such as kidney or liver disease or being obese can cause it. So can surgery or radiation treatment for another health problem. It also can be present at birth. It is most often treated with testosterone hormone. You can get the hormone as a shot or through a patch or gel on the skin.

What are the symptoms of low testosterone in men?

Symptoms of low testosterone in men may include:

  • Lower sex drive.
  • Erection problems.
  • Loss of body hair.
  • Very small testicles.
  • Fertility problems.
  • Breast discomfort or enlarged breasts.
  • Hot flashes.
  • Loss of height.
  • Weakened bones.

How is low testosterone treated?

Treatment may depend on the cause. Low testosterone that causes symptoms usually is treated with testosterone hormone. This is called testosterone replacement. You can get it in different ways, such as in a shot, through a patch or gel on the skin, or in a tablet you place between your cheek and gum.

Another way to raise your testosterone is through pills that you swallow. These pills aren't testosterone. Instead they are other kinds of medicine that work well to raise testosterone levels. They include medicines such as clomiphene.

Testosterone replacement may improve your sexual desire, increase your muscle mass, and help prevent bone loss. Many men with low testosterone levels report that they feel better and have more energy while taking testosterone.

Testosterone may be used to treat some men who have erection problems.

How is low testosterone in men diagnosed?

Your doctor will examine you and ask about your symptoms and past health. You'll have a blood test done in the morning. If it shows a low testosterone level, you'll have another blood test to confirm the result. If the second test confirms low testosterone, other tests may be done to look for the cause.

How can you care for yourself when you have hypogonadism?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • When you're taking testosterone, follow your doctor's instructions. Testosterone can help relieve many of the effects of this condition, such as a low sex drive. But it may take weeks or months for your symptoms to improve.
  • Follow your schedule for blood tests. Monitoring your blood levels is important when you are taking testosterone.
  • Get plenty of exercise. And make sure to get plenty of calcium and vitamin D in your diet. Eat more dairy foods and green vegetables. They can help keep your bones from getting weak.
  • If you have a hard time dealing with this condition, talk to your doctor about joining a support group. Talking with others who have the same problems can help you cope.

What is low testosterone?

Men who have low testosterone do not make enough of the male hormone called testosterone. This hormone allows men to develop and keep physical male traits. It's also one of the hormones needed for sperm production. Low testosterone is also called testosterone deficiency or hypogonadism.

Low testosterone can lead to problems such as a lower sex drive, weak bones, less muscle mass, less body hair, enlarged breasts, and infertility.

What causes low testosterone?

Many things can cause this problem, such as:

  • Aging. It's normal for testosterone to decrease as you age.
  • Injury to the testicles, or surgery or radiation treatment in the groin area.
  • Certain medicines.
  • Having a long-term medical condition, such as kidney or liver disease or obesity.
  • Problems related to the pituitary gland or hypothalamus.

Low testosterone also can be present at birth.

A blood test is usually done to find out if you have low testosterone. If your doctor thinks low testosterone could be related to another medical problem, other tests may be done.

Since testosterone normally decreases with age, your doctor can help determine whether your symptoms are from low testosterone and whether you could benefit from treatment.

Hypogonadism: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have headaches.
  • You have problems with your vision.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have trouble getting or keeping an erection.
  • You have a loss of body hair.
  • You feel weak or tired a lot of the time.
  • Your breasts are getting larger or are painful.
  • You do not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.