For a variety of reasons, males can experience a drop in testosterone levels. A gradual decline in testosterone levels is a normal part of aging, but it can also be caused by an underlying medical problem. Testosterone levels can also be affected by certain medications, such as chemotherapy and radiation for cancer treatment. Excessive stress levels and direct trauma to the testicles can also impair hormone production. Depending on the original cause, the condition can be classified as either “primary” or “secondary.” A primary cause means that your hormone levels are low from a problem in the testicles. A secondary cause means that the low hormone levels are a result of another issue. Here is what you should know about the condition, including its causes and your options for treatment.
What is Testosterone?
Testosterone is a male sex hormone. Its production starts in the teenage years. This triggers changes like more hair and muscle growth. Adolescents’ voices also become deeper. Unlike women, who eventually stop producing estrogen, males never fully stop producing sex hormones. However, production levels naturally start to decline at about age 30. In older men, low hormone levels are often attributed to age. But in younger males, it can be a sign of a problem. According to the American Urology Association (AUA), hormone levels below 300 nanograms per deciliter (often displayed as ng/DL) are considered to be abnormally low. This can cause a range of symptoms, including fatigue, irritability, low sex drive, depression, and erectile dysfunction. However, these symptoms can also be caused by other problems that might also affect hormone levels, as explained by the AUA: https://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/low-testosterone.
Causes of Low Hormone Levels
This condition can be present from birth. It can also start in the teenage years and prevent males from producing sufficient amounts of sperm. Although it’s less common, men can also develop hypogonadism when they are grown adults. Males who are born with hypogonadism can have underdeveloped sex glands, gender-ambiguous sex glands, and even female sex glands. If the condition develops in the teenage years, it can cause impaired growth of hair and sex organs, gynecomastia, and a failure to develop muscles and a deeper voice. In adults, it can cause infertility, erectile dysfunction, reduced muscle mass, gynecomastia, and osteoporosis.
Type 2 diabetes, kidney and liver disease, pituitary gland problems and some lung diseases can interfere with sex hormone production in males. Being overweight can also cause male hormone production levels to be lower than they should be. Restoring sex hormone levels in these instances means first dealing with the underlying problem.
Along with illnesses, there may be some genetic causes that explain low-T levels. Klinefelter syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, and Kallmann syndrome are some genetic conditions that can cause low male sex hormone levels. Another genetic condition that can cause low hormone production levels is hemochromatosis, which is the accumulation of too much iron in the body.
Stress, Trauma, and Other Causes
Excess stress can also affect your levels of hormone production. This is especially true for ongoing, chronic stress, which can significantly affect hormone levels. A traumatic blow to the testicles that causes damage can also interfere with hormone production. Giving the body time to heal or getting medical treatment if necessary should help. Finally, some medication and drugs, including steroids, can cause the testes to significantly reduce or completely stop their hormone production, as explained by urologist Dr. Bruce Gilbert: https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/low-testosterone-guide/low-testosterone-younger-than-50/.
Low Testosterone Treatment Options
The good news is that regardless of age, low hormone levels are relatively easy to treat. In younger males with genetic problems, hormone replacement therapy is the recommended treatment option. This type of therapy is administered in the form of patches, injections, and gels. This therapy requires a doctor’s close monitoring to make sure it is effective and doesn’t cause side effects such as reduced sperm production. In younger males, drugs called selective estrogen receptor modulators (or SERMS) can stimulate hormone production without stopping sperm production. Weight loss for men who are overweight resolves low-T problems unless there are other underlying medical conditions. Along with losing excess weight, your doctor might recommend making lifestyle changes such as getting more exercise and eating healthier.
Low hormone levels, like any medical condition, can be caused by a benign or a more serious underlying medical condition. Low hormone levels can be a problem from birth, such as from a genetic condition, but they can also develop later on from an acquired medical condition, being overweight, or undergoing treatments for certain diseases and illnesses such as cancer. Most causes of low hormone production can be fixed by either using conventional solutions such as injections or by making lifestyle changes. But if you are showing symptoms of low hormone levels, it is important to visit your doctor for a diagnosis to make sure you don’t have a potentially serious issue. After making a diagnosis, your doctor can suggest treatments that will make you feel better and enjoy a higher quality of life.