How are men affected by low testosterone levels?

Testosterone is important to enable a man to have erections and experience sexual desire (libido). Testosterone also helps to maintain:

  • Muscles
  • Healthy bones
  • Positive mood
  • Physical energy

Because of this, the health consequences of low testosterone can be quite wide-ranging:

  • Lack of energy
  • Depression
  • Loss of libido
  • Loss of facial and body hair
  • Changes to body composition (for example low muscle mass)

Men with low testosterone are also at increased risk of:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes and metabolic syndrome
  • Osteoporosis

Low testosterone can be diagnosed by an assessment of symptoms and a blood test to measure testosterone levels.

If tests confirm you have low testosterone, there are many different testosterone therapies designed to bring testosterone levels back to normal and help you feel better.

Risk factors for low testosterone
Risk factors for low testosterone are wide ranging and include injury to the testes, disease, genetic factors and normal aging.

Can I reduce my risk? You can’t change your age, but you can reduce some other risk factors for low testosterone. Improving diet, moderating alcohol consumption, losing weight and reducing stress can be helpful in reducing the risk of low testosterone.
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  • Summary of risk factors

    Risk factors for low testosterone

    Risk Factor
    Klinefelter’s syndrome A genetic deficiency in testosterone production. Affects between 1 in 500 and 1 in 1000 men.
    Injury to the testes The testes are prone to injury because they hang outside the body and are not protected by bone or muscle. Damage to testes can cause reduced testosterone production
    Un-descended testes The testes develop within the abdomen and descend into the scrotum shortly before birth. In some cases one or both of the testes may not descend at birth (this happens in about 1 in 4 boys born prematurely and 1 in 20 boys born at term). The condition usually corrects itself naturally within the first year of life but if not corrected in early childhood, the testes may not develop properly.
    Mumps orchitis Sometimes a mumps infection will involve the testes as well as the saliva glands. If this happens during adolescence or adulthood, long-term damage may occur that affects testosterone production.
    Cancer and cancer treatment Cancer of the testes or pituitary tumours can lead to low testosterone. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy can also interfere with testosterone production
    Hormone system imbalance Kallmann syndrome involves abnormal development of the hypothalamus and is a risk factor for low testosterone.
    Pituitary disorders can impair the release of hormones affecting normal testosterone production.
    Chronic illnesses Chronic illnesses such as liver or kidney disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis may be risk factors for low testosterone.

    In some instances it is not clear whether the chronic illness is a cause or a consequence of low testosterone.
    Normal aging Men normally experience some decline in testosterone level as they age.
    Haemochromatosis Haemochromatosis is a genetic disorder that causes the body to absorb too much iron from the diet. This iron can be deposited in various body organs including the hypothalamus, pituitary and testes. It is now recognized as a common disorder and 1 in 200 people of northern Europe may be at risk of developing iron overload.
    Other HIV/AIDS virus can cause low levels of testosterone by affecting the hypothalamus, pituitary and testes.
    Certain medications can affect testosterone production.
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Last updated: 2016