Why do I have low testosterone?
Before discussing testosterone levels, it’s important to understand what testosterone is, where it is produced, and how it affects the human body.
Testosterone is a sex hormone, also known as a steroid hormone, which is found in both men and women. In men, testosterone is produced mostly in the gonads (or testicles). It’s known as a sex hormone because it affects the reproductive organs and process. Testosterone also influences the natural development of sexual traits in men such as facial hair and deeper voices—among others.
Testosterone production originates in the hypothalamus portion of the brain. The hypothalamus and pituitary gland work in tandem to send messages to the gonads to produce and regulate testosterone levels. As men age, testosterone levels begin a natural decline. Generally, men experience a 2-3% drop in testosterone each year starting at around 30. As testosterone decreases, men can experience symptoms such as a diminished sex drive, erectile dysfunction, loss of muscle mass, fatigue, and a difficulty in losing fat around their midsections.
While age is a contributing factor, testosterone levels can also be affected by:
- Chromosomal abnormalities
- Childhood illnesses such as the mumps
- Trauma to the testicles
- Undescended testicles
Diagnosing testosterone levels
A simple blood test will help determine if testosterone levels are below normal. Once low testosterone (or hypogonadism) is diagnosed, it’s important to determine proper treatment. In fact, the type of testosterone administered will vary depending on whether the man is finished having children or not. For instance, if an exogenous testosterone is used, it will deplete the production of sperm and reduce normal fertility. This is ideal for men who are finished having children. For men who want children, a different approach will be used during treatment.
Men can be treated for low testosterone by the use of gels, creams, patches, injections, or pellets. Typically, gels, creams and patches are used once daily, while injections are taken once every seven to ten days. As another option, pellets can be inserted into the buttocks, and replaced every three to four months. With all testosterone treatments, blood levels are periodically monitored to determine changes in testosterone.
As with any medical treatment, there can be side effects. Low testosterone treatment can result in loss of hair, acne, breast swelling and/or tenderness. While being a nuisance, these side effects can ordinarily be treated or reversed.
If you are experiencing symptoms that may be related to low testosterone, contact Urology Austin to schedule an appointment with one of our providers.