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Men: Do You Have Low Testosterone?

At the end of their childbearing years, women go through menopause as a drop in female hormones ends their fertility.

Men, on the other hand, experience a more gradual reduction in the male sex hormone testosterone as they age. The result: a condition known as low testosterone.

Learning about low testosterone may help you determine whether you could have the condition and what you should do about it.

Q: What is a healthy testosterone level?

A: The normal range is generally 300 to 1,000 ng/dl (nanograms per deciliter). If a test shows that your levels are below normal, that does not automatically mean you’re diagnosed with low testosterone. Readings can vary in the same man from day to day, even from hour to hour in the same day. Testosterone must be measured more than once for an accurate assessment.

Q: What are the signs of low testosterone?

A: Possible symptoms include:

  • Depression

  • Weak bones

  • Low energy and fatigue

  • Decreased muscle mass and strength

  • Inability to concentrate

  • A drop in sex drive

  • Erectile dysfunction

However, other medical conditions can cause many of these symptoms. Your health care provider should conduct tests to rule out these causes.

Q: What can cause low testosterone in men?

A: The cause isn’t always known. However, a drop in testosterone can result from:

  • Aging

  • Injury, trauma, or infection of the testicles

  • Radiation or chemotherapy

  • Use of opiate painkillers, such as OxyContin

  • Pituitary disease

  • Liver or kidney disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, or HIV/AIDS

  • Genetic conditions, including hemochromatosis, myotonic dystrophy, Kallmann syndrome, and Klinefelter syndrome

Q: Is testosterone therapy safe?

A: Testosterone treatment is safe and effective for men who meet the following criteria:

  1. They are diagnosed with consistently low testosterone levels.

  2. They experience symptoms associated with testosterone deficiency.

There are some treatment risks though, including possible prostate and/or breast enlargement, acne, and sleep apnea.

You should not receive testosterone therapy if you have:

  • Prostate or breast cancer

  • Blood clots

  • Problems breathing during sleep

  • An enlarged prostate that causes urination difficulties

  • Plans to have children

  • History of a recent heart attack or stroke (within the past six months)

Q: How is low testosterone treated?

A: There are various testosterone therapies—the method that’s best for you will depend on the cause of low testosterone, your preferences, and the cost. Review these options with your health care provider:

  • Injections—administered every one to two weeks (or every 10 weeks for longer-acting injections)

  • Gels—applied to the upper arm, shoulder, inner thigh, or armpit

  • Patches—placed on the back, abdomen, upper arm, or thigh

  • Buccal tablets—a sticky pill applied to gums twice a day

  • Pellets—implanted under skin surgically every three to six months

  • Nasal gel—pumped into each nostril three times a day

Q: What steps should men take to protect their health as they age?

A: These proactive steps can help older men stay healthy as they age:

  • See a provider regularly to keep up with health screenings and vaccines.

  • Exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, and maintain a healthy weight.

  • Talk with a health care provider if you have a problem that affects your sex life. He or she may be able to suggest medication or other treatments that can help.

© 2000-2020 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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