Testosterone, Men and Health: What You Need to Know
September 05, 2019
You probably know testosterone (T) plays an important role in how boys physically develop into men. But is that all you know? What happens when a man's T levels are off? Are there symptoms men should look for? And what are the treatment options? Dr. Bobby Kahlon, MD, Renown Medical Group and Dr. Nitesh D. Kuhadiya, MD, MPH, Medical Director of Endocrinology with Renown Medical Group and Professor of Medicine, St. George's University provide answers in a Testosterone Q&A.
What does testosterone do for men?"Testosterone is known as the 'manly hormone' for a reason," says Dr. Kahlon. "Though women also naturally produce small amounts of it, men produce testosterone at much higher concentration levels. And it affects men in more physical and obvious ways. How much hair a man has on his chest, how deep his voice is, or how muscular he is are all attributable in some way to testosterone. It's also responsible in large part for sex drive and bone strength and affects how men think, learn and experience their surroundings." Testosterone in men:
- Powers virilization (male physical characteristics) and sexual function
- Builds muscle mass and strength
- Supports bone density
- Improves cognition
Can you have too much or too little testosterone?Though high testosterone isn't a concern for most men, low testosterone or low T occurs more frequently and develops for two primary reasons. Dr. Kuhadiya explains, "Subnormal testosterone concentrations occur either due to pituitary or testicular failure and the causes for each need to be discussed with your physician." Pituitary failure: Approximately one-third of men with obesity, type 2 diabetes, or metabolic syndrome (which includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels) have low free — or "bioavailable" — testosterone. These health conditions can cause the pituitary gland to "fail" to release follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) which are essential for triggering testosterone and sperm production. And that can cause low testosterone (hypogonadism). Testicular failure: Though less common than pituitary failure, testicular failure may also be responsible for low T. It's caused by diseases or illnesses affecting the testicles, injury or trauma to the testicles, or certain medicines and treatments such as chemotherapy or opioid pain medication. Providing your complete medical history to your doctor is always the first step toward a proper diagnosis.
What are the symptoms of low T?The following indicators could be a sign that you have low T, say the doctors.
- Lack of motivation and determination, including mild depression
- Loss of physical endurance and muscle strength
- Loss of or diminished early morning erections
- Reduced libido (sex drive)
- Erectile dysfunction (ED — difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection)
- Gynecomastia (male breasts)
- Small testes