There has been a lot more discussion about testosterone deficiency (TD) in recent years. Despite this, the signs and symptoms of TD in males can often go unrecognised and undiagnosed. Over time, this can lead to a poorer quality of life and even cause more serious health problems to develop.
What is TD?
TD is caused by abnormally low levels of testosterone in the body. This is the primary male sex hormone that is produced in the testicles and is vital for healthy sexual functioning. Testosterone also affects bone and muscle mass and red blood production.
Testosterone levels naturally decrease with age, but this is at a relatively slow rate of about 1% a year from the age of 30 or 40. However, some men are affected by a condition called hypogonadism, which can result in abnormally low levels of testosterone or TD. This condition can be present at birth, or develop in later life.
TD may also be the result of a chronic health condition, stress, alcoholism, or drug abuse.
What are the symptoms of TD?
TD symptoms include low mood or frequent mood swings, anxiety, depression, low energy levels, weight gain, thinning bones and hair, and loss of sex drive or erectile dysfunction (ED). These symptoms are often dismissed as ‘the male menopause’ or a midlife crisis.
However, there is no medical reason for men to have a sudden drop in testosterone levels simply because they have reached middle age. There may of course be other explanations for the above symptoms, which is why it’s always important to get them checked out by a doctor.
There is some disagreement in medical circles as to just how common TD is. While it is possible to measure testosterone levels reasonably accurately with a simple blood test, There are no fixed parameters for defining exactly what constitutes TD, and even a small deficiency can cause debilitating symptoms.
It is generally accepted that the risk of TD increases with age, but more recent research has suggested that it might be more common in younger men than is commonly thought. Men who are under the age of 40 and are experiencing issues with sexual dysfunction may be living with undiagnosed TD.
Other medical conditions that can cause TD
Men who have already been diagnosed and are being treated for another medical condition may also have TD as a result of this. For example, men with type 2 diabetes are more prone to TD.
Being overweight or obese is another risk factor for TD. However, low testosterone levels can also be a cause of obesity, so it can be difficult to separate cause from effect in this case. Weight loss is recommended in the first instance to see if this will naturally elevate testosterone levels.
TD can be treated with testosterone replacement therapy if it is considered to be damaging to health or quality of life. Resulting symptoms such as ED can also be treated with oral medication or Eroxon gel, which is applied directly to the penis.