Testosterone is the male sex hormone that is produced by the testicles. Testosterone plays a vital role in the development of male sex characteristics such as a man’s frame, their strength, facial and body hair growth, and a deeper voice.
Testosterone also has a number of health benefits. As men age, testosterone levels can decline and the benefits of the hormone can be lost. Low testosterone levels have been associated with increased mortality and may contribute to several other health conditions such as heart attack, coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and bone density loss.
Some men are born with medical conditions that cause low testosterone and this is typically recognized early in life or during a period of time that puberty would be expected to occur.
Low testosterone levels can occur because of injury or illness such as an accident that can cause physical damage to the testicles, removal of one or both testicles from a medical condition like cancer, disease in the pituitary gland of the brain where the signal is sent to the testicles to produce testosterone, or even from infection.
Some men can develop low testosterone as part of aging. For other men, it can be a downstream effect of other health conditions like metabolic syndrome, obesity, or untreated sleep apnea. Some men can even develop low testosterone because of the use of particular medications.
There are a number of symptoms and conditions associated with low testosterone. Some of them are specific to testosterone, particularly when multiple symptoms are clustered together, and others are quite non-specific. The most common symptoms and conditions associated with low testosterone are:
In cases of suspected testosterone deficiency, it is important to work with a healthcare provider who can complete the appropriate medical workup to rule out other causes of the symptoms or conditions. Simply having one or more of the above does not mean that you have low testosterone, as there are a number of other possible causes. But if you have any of these symptoms or conditions, and the effects are affecting your relationship, your job performance, or your quality of life, then you should speak with your healthcare provider about your concerns and inquire about getting tested.