Over the last few decades, testosterone levels have been dropping. While it’s a relief to know that it hasn’t dropped as drastically as rumored (50%), it’s still enough to cause concern.
In fact, some men may be experiencing a sharp enough decrease in testosterone that they’re experiencing health issues. Considering that testosterone is the primary sex hormone for males, it’s not tough to imagine what problems they may face.
Do you suspect you have low testosterone and want to get to the bottom of things? Then keep reading. In this article, we’ll discuss the causes of low testosterone and the available treatment options.
Causes of Low Testosterone
As men get older, their testosterone levels will naturally decline. This usually starts around age 30 and drops 1% per year afterward. Even though it’s a natural process, there are ways to remedy it (more on this later).
But there are several other things that can cause low testosterone. They fall into 2 main categories: primary and secondary hypogonadism. Here’s more in detail.
Primary hypogonadism is also known as primary testicular failure. As the name suggests, this is when testicular issues affect your body’s testosterone production.
One of the most obvious ways you might get primary hypogonadism is by suffering injury or trauma to the testicles. This can happen through a hard blow, testicular cancer, or the treatments used to treat testicular cancer (such as radiation or chemotherapy).
Genetic abnormalities can also result in primary hypogonadism. One big example is Klinefelter syndrome, which is where you have 2 or more X chromosomes in addition to the Y chromosome (men typically have one of each). This can affect testicular development.
Another form of primary hypogonadism is undescended testicles. Before birth, these organs are supposed to descend from the abdomen, into the scrotum. But this doesn’t always happen, even in early childhood, so this will impact your testosterone production.
Needless to say, if you’re born without testicles, then testosterone production can be problematic as well.
The use of anabolic steroids can also cause low testosterone. Other causes of primary hypogonadism include Noonan syndrome, myotonic dystrophy, Leydig cell hypoplasia, and orchitis.
Secondary hypogonadism isn’t caused by a direct issue with the testicles. Instead, the issue is in your pituitary gland or hypothalamus, both of which are in your brain. These are responsible for signaling testosterone production, so levels may decrease if anything’s wrong with these organs.
If you have a pituitary disorder or a tumor in this organ, your brain won’t produce the right amount of hormones for proper testosterone production. So you can end up with low levels.
Kallmann syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome are both genetic disorders that cause hypothalamus dysfunction. As a result, your body won’t create enough testosterone.
Certain medications can also affect your testosterone production. If you’ve been prescribed opioids for pain management, this is a common side effect.
If you have hypopituitarism or hyperprolactinemia, you can get secondary hypogonadism as well.
Other Causes of Low Testosterone
Being overweight can be bad for your health, but most men don’t realize that it can affect your testosterone levels too. If you’re obese, this can slow down testosterone production and lower your levels.
Many overweight/obese men also have type 2 diabetes. This puts you at an increased risk of secondary hypogonadism.
On the other hand, if you’re underweight, this can also lower your testosterone levels. More specifically, if you have an abnormally low BMI, exercise excessively, and/or are malnourished, your testosterone levels will probably drop.
Other health issues that can decrease your testosterone levels are iron overload, cirrhosis of the liver, alcohol use disorder, kidney failure, HIV/AIDS, and obstructive sleep apnea.
How to Treat Low Testosterone
The best way to treat low testosterone is to first go to the doctor. As you can see from the above lists, there are many causes of low testosterone, and it can be hard to pinpoint on your own.
Even if you suspect a main cause, it’s best to have it confirmed by a medical professional, who will probably order tests. That way, they can tailor a treatment plan for you.
With that said, here are a few ways low testosterone’s treated.
You can buy Androgel or other topical gels and apply them every day to your clean, dry skin. This is one of the most common ways to treat low testosterone.
Just be careful you don’t transfer gel through skin-to-skin contact, as it can affect the other person’s testosterone levels.
You can also receive injections every 1 to 2 weeks. There’s even a long-acting testosterone injection that only requires appointments every 10 weeks.
While this treatment involves needles, it’s much more convenient.
This is another daily treatment, but you won’t have to deal with gel residue.
However, you’ll need to vary the areas used for the patches. Otherwise, you may get skin irritation.
A long-term solution is testosterone pellets. You only need to visit the doctor every 3 to 6 months to get new ones.
These pellets are placed under your skin and release testosterone consistently.
Tablets or Pills
You can get buccal tablets, which you put on your gums twice a day. Or you can get pills to take called undecanoate.
Feel Like Yourself Again
Now you know the main causes of low testosterone. This is helpful, as you have a starting point if you feel like things don’t feel right.
If you’ve been having symptoms of low testosterone (such as low sex drive, fatigue, muscle mass loss, etc.), then it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with your doctor. Together, you can get to the root of your problems and improve your quality of life.
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