"After age 30, most men begin to experience a gradual decline in testosterone," states 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 such as fatigue, low sex drive, and reduction of muscle mass.
While low testosterone is more prevalent in older men, it can occur in younger guys also. Luckily, every one of the causes of low testosterone in young guys are treatable, so in the event that you experience these symptoms at any age, there is no reason to ignore it.
For younger guys, a fall in testosterone levels can be brought on 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 diseases Klinefelter syndrome, Kallmann syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, and Myotonic dystrophy. Another disorder which can cause low testosterone is hemochromatosis, making 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 sexual medicine at the Smith Institute for Urology of their North Shore-LIJ Health System.
Other causes of low testosterone in men 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 says. "This could be from a developmental issue, injury to the testicles, or radiation or chemotherapy treatment.
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.
Your doctor can diagnose low testosterone with a blood test.
"When it comes to treating low testosterone in younger guys, we usually reserve treatment for those who have symptoms, such as tiredness and reduced libido," Gilbert says.
In these circumstances,"treatments are usually used only in the short term, and when a doctor has close observation and knowledge of the patient," Gilbert says.
An important consideration for younger men before getting treatment is fertility. "You do not wish to offer supplemental testosterone to guys 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 maintain their semen production," he states. One such alternative is a class of drugs called selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs).
Other remedies for low testosterone include weight loss and other lifestyle modifications, like eating healthy and increasing exercise.
The bottom line, though, is that if you've got low testosterone symptoms, then it's important to see your doctor. Then, your doctor can rule out potentially more significant causes of your symptoms, including hypertension or a thyroid problem, and offer treatment that can improve your energy and quality of life.