Low testosterone happens when a man does not have enough testosterone in his body. Testosterone is the sex hormone that helps boys grow into men. During puberty (in the teen years), testosterone helps boys develop male features like body and facial hair, deeper voice, and muscle strength. Men need testosterone to make sperm.
You may have low testosterone if you have the following problems:
- Reduced sex drive
- Less frequent sexual activities
- Fewer and weaker erections
- Less energy
- Depressed mood
- Less muscle mass and strength
- More body fat
- Anemia (low iron)
- Loss of bone strength
If you think you may have it, it is important to see a doctor, who will examine you and evaluate your health history. A blood test can measure your testosterone levels.
Common Myths and Facts
Myth: Low testosterone is a normal part of aging
Fact: Low testosterone can develop at any age for a number of reasons. As you get older, your testes naturally begin to produce less testosterone than they did when you were a teenager. But that does not mean you have low testosterone.
Myth: Low testosterone only affects a man's sex drive
Fact: While one of the first signs of low testosterone is loss of sex drive, low testosterone can be linked to mood swings, fatigue, low energy and a lack of drive to get up and do things.
In April 2018, the American Urological Association (AUA) released the first-ever clinical guideline on the diagnosis and management of testosterone deficiency.
A clinical guideline is a document developed by a panel of experts who review all available information to come with up recommendations. These recommendations help guide health care providers in optimizing the care of patients.
A guideline is not an absolute rule or inflexible way to care for a patient. This is because there are exceptions and special cases in regards to what is best for the individual patient.
As part of this guideline, the diagnosis of low testosterone should be made only after two total testosterone measurements are taken on separate occasions with both conducted in an early morning fashion.
This guideline recommends men should be measured every 6-12 months while on testosterone therapy.
In a recent Urology Care Podcast episode, urologist Dr. John Mulhall said the guideline advises clinicians to consider measuring total testosterone in patients with a history of unexplained anemia, bone density loss, diabetes, exposure to chemotherapy, exposure to testicular radiation, HIV/AIDS, chronic narcotic use, male infertility, pituitary dysfunction, and chronic corticosteroid use even without symptoms or signs associated with testosterone deficiency.
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