"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 nyc.
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 common in older men, it can occur in younger guys as well. Luckily, all the causes of low testosterone in young men are curable, so if you experience these symptoms at any age, there's no reason to dismiss it.
For younger men, a drop in testosterone levels may be caused by some illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, diabetes, chronic liver or kidney disease, COPD or other lung disease, or adrenal gland problems, according to Dr. Samadi.
Genetic causes of low testosterone in males include the ailments Klinefelter syndrome, Kallmann syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, and Myotonic dystrophy. Another disorder that could 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 at the Smith Institute for Urology of the North Shore-LIJ Health System.
Other causes of low testosterone in males younger than 50 contain adrenal gland tumors, HIV infection, and radiation treatment or chemotherapy for cancer.
Doctors categorize causes of low testosterone as secondary or primary.
"Primary hypogonadism stems from a problem in the testicles," Samadi states.
Is It 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 states.
If you suspect low testosterone, the first step is to see your primary care physician.
Treatments for Low Testosterone in Younger Men
Not everyone with low testosterone needs treatment. "When it comes to treating low testosterone in younger men, we usually reserve treatment for those who have symptoms, such as tiredness and reduced libido," Gilbert says.
Such testosterone supplements come in the form of gel, injections, patches, long-acting pellets, or oral inserts.
In these circumstances,"therapies are usually used only in the short term, and if a physician has close observation and knowledge of the individual," Gilbert says.
An important consideration for younger men before getting treatment is fertility. "You do not wish to give supplemental testosterone to men who are interested in being fertile since 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 sperm production," he states. 1 such alternative is a category of drugs known as selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs).
Other treatments for low testosterone include weight loss and other lifestyle changes, like eating healthier and increasing exercise.
The main point, however, is that if you have low testosterone symptoms, then it's important to see your physician. Then, your doctor can rule out potentially more serious causes of your symptoms, including high blood pressure or a thyroid problem, and give treatment that could improve your power and quality of life.