Low T

An estimated four to five million men in the United States have low t, a hormonal decline that some researchers say could indicate a type of male menopause. Starting around age 40, the male body produces about one percent less testosterone a year, according to a 2004 Mayo Clinic article on testosterone therapy. This decline is faster in some than others, but this process doesn’t take place along a specific timeline.

Low TWhile female menopause is a very specific few years that females go through where there’s a very dramatic decline in hormones accompanied by a very specific set of symptoms, not all men have a predictable decline in hormones.

Physicians may perform a blood test for testosterone levels when patients show symptoms such as decreased libido, impotence, decreased growth of body hair, decreased muscle mass and fatigue. Men with osteoporosis, decreased sex drive and men who seem to be losing muscle mass and declining more than he would expect for their level of activity should have their male hormones checked.

Low t in men is often underdiagnosed because testosterone affects all men differently and can go farther in some men than in others. As a general rule, a testosterone level of 270 – 300 ng/dL is considered normal, but men with levels considered “lower” function normally while others with “normal” levels experience symptoms of low t.

While gradually decreasing testosterone can accompany age, markedly low levels of testosterone accompanied by physical indications and specific symptoms could also indicate a testosterone deficiency called hypogonadism.
Hypogonadal men, in addition to having markedly low t and physical manifestations of the disease, have symptoms including progressive decrease in muscle mass, loss of libido, impotence and poor ability to concentrate.

Bone health and muscle mass are also major issues for men with low testosterone. According to several studies, hypogonadism results in low bone density and increased fracture risk, so bone density tests may also be performed on patients diagnosed with the disease. Men with hypogonadism, and to a lesser extent, men whose testosterone is decreasing with age may want to weigh the health risks and benefits of testosterone replacement therapy.

Testosterone treatment is an effective treatment for hypogonadism and it may be replaced through injections, patches or topically applied gels. Throughout treatment, the hormone’s effects should be monitored, most commonly using blood tests and physicals. The two most concerning possible effects of testosterone treatment are prostate enlargement, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), and increased risk of developing prostate cancer.

Dr. Patrick Sharp

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