Testosterone is a hormone produced in men by the testicles. It is often known as the “male hormone” as it is responsible for male characteristics like a deep voice, muscular build, and facial hair.
However testosterone has other roles in the body. It keeps bones strong, build muscles, reduces fat gain, helps stamina, clear thinking, improves mood and helps in the production of red blood cells.
Like most sex hormones, testosterone levels increase during teenage years, peaking during early adulthood and then start to drop, by about 1-2% a year, from early 30’s.
It is therefore understandable that from the age of 50 men may start to show signs and symptoms of reduced testosterone levels.
- Low sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
- Decreased sense of well-being
- Depressed mood
- Difficulties with concentration and memory
- Moodiness and irritability
- Loss of muscular strength
- A mild anemia
- A decrease in body hair
- Thinning of the bones (osteoporosis)
- Increased body fat
- Breast development (gynecomastia)
Diagnosing low testosterone
Low testosterone levels can be diagnosed via our GP via a blood test.
If you are experiencing symptoms such as those above one of our GP’s will take a history, possibly do an examination and order some blood tests.
There can be other causes for your symptoms or causes other than age that can reduce testosterone, so these will have to be ruled out too:
Other conditions that can reduce testosterone include:
- High levels of the milk-producing hormone prolactin
- Obesity or extreme weight loss
- Uncontrolled type 2 diabetes mellitus
- Congenital defect (present at birth)
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Estrogen excess (usually from an external or environmental source)
- Previous anabolic steroid abuse
- Low thyroid
- Trauma (head injury)
- Radiation exposure or prior surgery of the brain
- Alcohol abuse
- Kidney diseases
If your results do return showing low testosterone you may then be referred for tests to ensure the low testosterone has not caused any concerns – e.g.: a bone density scan to ensure you haven’t lost any bone thickness.
Testosterone therapy for low levels
If you are experiencing symptoms of low testosterone and low levels are confirmed on a blood test and no other causes are found, testosterone replacement therapy, along with its pros and cons, will be discussed with you.
If after discussion testosterone therapy is required, there a few ways it can be taken:
- Skin patch.
- Oral therapy.
- Pellets implanted under the skin
Most men feel improvement in symptoms within four to six weeks of taking testosterone replacement therapy, although changes like increases in muscle mass may take from three to six months to be felt.
Unfortunately there are cases where testosterone supplementation is not recommended. These include:
- Prostate or breast cancer
- A high blood level of prostate-specific antigen (a blood test used to screen for prostate cancer)
- Planning to become a father in the near-term
- An elevated red blood cell count
- Severe, untreated sleep apnea
- Severe lower urinary tract symptoms
- Poorly controlled heart failure
- Heart attack or stroke within the last 6 months
- A tendency to form blood clots (a condition called thrombophilia)
If you would like to discuss this further with one of our GP’s you can book an appointment online via the button at the top of the page or call us o 1800 BESTGP.