Testosterone is a hormone made in a man's testicles. It is important for a man's sex drive and physical appearance.
Certain health conditions, medicines, or injury can lead to low testosterone. Testosterone level also naturally drops with age. Low testosterone can affect sex drive, mood, and the body.
Treatment with testosterone therapy may help reduce symptoms.
How Testosterone Affects Health
Testosterone makes a man look and feel like a man. In a man, this hormone helps:
- Keep bones and muscles strong
- Determine hair growth and where fat is on the body
- Make sperm
- Maintain sex drive
- Make red blood cells
- Boost energy and mood
Causes of Low Testosterone
Beginning around age 30 to 40, a man's testosterone level slowly decreases. This occurs naturally.
Other causes of low testosterone include:
Some men with low testosterone do not have any symptoms. Others may have:
- Low sex drive
- Problems having an erection
- Low sperm count
- Sleep problems such as insomnia
- Decrease in muscle size and strength
- Bone loss
- Increase in body fat
- Trouble concentrating
Some symptoms may be a normal part of aging. For example, it is normal to feel less interested in sex as you get older. But, it is not normal to have no interest in sex.
Symptoms may also be caused by other conditions, such as high blood pressure. If any of these symptoms are bothering you, talk with your health care provider.
Your provider will likely have you get a blood test to check your testosterone level. You will also be checked for other causes of your symptoms. These include medicine side effects, thyroid problems, or depression.
If you have low testosterone, hormone therapy may help. The medicine used is man-made testosterone. It can be given as a gel, patch, injection, or implant.
Treatment may relieve symptoms in some men. It may help keep bones and muscles strong. But it is unclear whether hormone therapy is helpful for older men with low testosterone.
Testosterone therapy has risks. It may increase your risk for heart attack or stroke. Hormone therapy may not be safe for men who have prostate or breast cancer.
Talk with your provider about whether testosterone is right for you.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your health care provider if:
- You have symptoms of low testosterone
- You have questions or concerns about treatment
Male menopause; Andropause; Testosterone deficiency; Androgen deficiency of the aging male; Late-onset hypogonadism
Allan CA, McLachlin RI. Androgen deficiency disorders. In: Jameson JL, De Groot LJ, de Kretser DM, et al, eds. Endocrinology: Adult and Pediatric. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 139.
Bhasin S, Cunningham GR, Hayes FJ, Matsumoto AM, Snyder PJ, Swerdloff RS, Montori VM; Task Force, Endocrine Society. Testosterone therapy in men with androgen deficiency syndromes: an Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010;95(6):2536-59. PMID: 20525905. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20525905.
US Food and Drug Administration. FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA Cautions About Using Testosterone Products for Low Testosterone Due to Aging; Requires Labeling Change to Inform of Possible Increased Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke with Use. Issued March 3, 2015. www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm436259.htm. Accessed July 1, 2015.
Wallis L. Caveats about testosterone therapy. Am J Nurs. 2014;114:15. PMID: 24481348. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24481348.
Review Date 9/18/2014
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, medical director and director of didactic curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. Editorial update 11/29/2016.